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I HE greatest moments in the Iiistory 
of the fAmericaa ^Presidency were those 
in which courageous decisions, as unpre- 
dictable as they were dramatic, brought 
about crucial changes in the office, gradu- 
ally shaping it into the world's most 
powerful political instrument. In this 
brilliant volume, Richard L. Tobin gives 
us a moving picture of the turbulence and 
the passion of the times in which our out- 
standing Presidents lived, and describes 
in detail the contributions great Presi- 
dents have made to our democracy and 
the permanent impact they have had on 
the American way of life. 

Each of our great Presidents was faced 
with a special set of circumstances and 
conditions that required his immediate, 
total and personal response. George 
Washington rejected the title of "king" in 
favor of more democratic distribution of 
federal power than many of his time 
desired. Thomas Jefferson bought the 
Louisiana Territory almost on his own. 
Andrew Jackson gave the American Presi- 
dency greater prestige and more power 
through his adoption of the "spoils sys- 
tem." Abraham Lincoln suspended for a 
time one of the most important rights of 
free men in order to save the federal 

Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, 
and Theodore Roosevelt followed in their 
admimstrations the examples of our pio- 
neer Presidents the first by successfully 
(continued on back flap) 


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Desicions of destiny 


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by Richard L. Tobin 


The World Publishing Company 

PUBLISHED BY The World Publishing Company 

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this book may be 
reproduced in any form without written permission from 
the publisher, except for brief passages included in a 
review appearing in a newspaper or magazine. 



White House Profile by Bess Furman. Copyright 1951, 
used by special permission of the publishers, The Bobbs- 
Merrill Company, Inc. 

Seven Ages of Washington by Owen Wister. Copyright 1907 
by The Macmillan Company, by permission of The Macmillan 

Woodrow Wilson by Arthur Walworth. Copyright 1958 
by Longmans, Green and Co., Inc. 

Makers of a New Nation, Vol. 9, The Pageant of America. 
Copyright 1928 Yale University Press. 

You re the Boss by Edward J. Flynn. Copyright 1947 by 
The Viking Press, Inc. and reprinted by their permission. 

Harry S. Truman Memoirs, Vol. n. Copyright 1956 Time 

The Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt. Copyright 1913 
by Charles Scribner's Sons, Centennial Edition. Copyright 
1958 by Charles Scribner's Sons. 

Grower Cleveland, a Study in Courage by Allan Nevins. 
Copyright 1932 by Dodd, Mead and Co. 

the best newspaperman 1 know. 



i George Washington 14 

Rejects a Monarchy 

2* Thomas Jefferson 32 

Buys Louisiana On His Own 

3 Andrew Jackson 52 

Invents the Spoils System 

4 Abraham Lincoln 80 

Suspends Habeas Corpus 

5 Chester Arthur 98 

Rises to the Occasion 

6 Grover Cleveland 124 

Dignifies the Presidential Veto 

7 Theodore Roosevelt 150 

Trust-Busts Changes in the Presidency 

8 Woodrow Wilson 180 

Ignores the Senate and Loses His Dream 


9 Franklin Roosevelt's 216 

Amazing Hundred Days 

10 Harry Truman 246 

Commits His Country to War 





i SHOULD LIKE to express my special thanks to Lewis G. Vander 
Velde, director of tie Michigan Historical Collections, for 
his guidance and many helpful suggestions in my preparation 
of tils manuscript Professor Vander Velde is, moreover, re- 
sponsible for my initial interest in American history, which he 
taught superbly at the University of Michigan. I never knew 
a finer teacher; and the seed he planted in my youthful brain 
became in later life a nightly reading habit which has given 
me more pleasure than anything else I know. 

Secondly, I should like to thank Peter Levin, my Wilton 
neighbor and friend, whose excellent book Seven By Chance 
is one of the undiscovered gems of American historical writing. 
Mr. Levin's careful scholarship has saved me I cannot calculate 
how many hours of drudgery, particularly in research on 
Arthur, Cleveland, and T.R. 

I also acknowledge with gratitude the following permissions: 
Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis, for Bess Furman's White House 
Profile; Columbia University Press, New York, for a host of 
reference favors from The Columbia Encyclopedia; Dodd, 
Mead, New York, for Allan Nevins* Grover Cleveland; Double- 
day, New York, for Harry Truman's Memoirs; Farrar, Straus 
and Cudahy, New York, for Peter Levin's Seven By Chance, 
and for other help from the author; Harcourt, Brace, New 
York, for Henry Pringle's Theodore Roosevelt; Harper and 
Brothers, New York, for Margaret Leech's Reveille in Wash- 
ington; Houghton Mifflin, Boston, for Henry Cabot Lodge's 


George Washington, Arthur Schlesinger Jr/s The Coming of 
the New Deal, and William Allen White's Woodrow Wilson; 
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, for Adrienne Koch's Jefferson and 
Madison; Little, Brown, Boston, for John Morton Blum's 
Woodrow Wilson and the Politics of Morality, Frank Freidel's 
Franklin Roosevelt, and Arthur Schlesinger Jr/s The Age of 
Jackson; Longmans, Green, New York, for Arthur Walworth's 
Woodrow Wilson; McGraw-Hill, New York, for Herbert 
Hoover s The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson; Macmillan, New 
York, for Owen Wister's Seven Ages of Washington; Oxford 
University Press, New York, for John W. Ward's Andrew Jack- 
son: Symbol for an Age; Viking Press, New York, for Edward J. 
Flynn's You're the Boss; Yale University Press, New Haven, 
for material from Vol. IX in the "Pageant of America" series. 
Also Brandt & Brandt, the New York agency, for Raymond 
Moley's After Seven Years; Life magazine for Harry Truman's 
Memoirs; and Look Magazine for further articles and material 
by President Truman; to the Congressional Digest, Washing- 
ton, D.C, for material on the Korean War debate in Congress; 
and the New York Herald Tribune for permission to reprint 
material from its files. 

In addition, I should like to acknowledge the great help 
rendered by the New York Public Library, the Westport, Con- 
necticut, Library, and the Pequot Library of Southport, Con- 
necticut, for research material, much of it from contemporary 
sources. Further, I should like to thank Grace Horvath for aid 
in preparation of the manuscript and Theodore Carlson for 
unique material on Chester A. Arthur, given to me along with 
much encouragement and aid. 

K L. T. 
Wilton, Connecticut 

Who knows only his own generation 
remains always a child. 



George Washington 

IN FESTERING camps near the Atlantic seaboard, particularly 
at General Washington's headquarters at Newburgh, just 
sixty-five miles up the Hudson from New-York, the miserable 
Continental Army lay impatient and mutinous that frigid early 
spring of 1782, It was morose, hungry, forgotten and unpaid. 
Lord Cornwallis had surrendered the autumn before at York- 
town in southeast Virginia, and the War of the Revolution 
was supposed to have come to an end. Yet, somehow it was 
not over. 

Valley Forge, five timeless years ago, had been a ghastly 
nightmare of bloody frost and starvation, but also of incredible 
fortitude and vibrant hope. There had been many difficulties, 
almost impossible ones, and men had deserted hourly across 
the rolling winter hills of Pennsylvania. But there had also 
been sufficient challenge and heroism to keep a ragged corps 
of 11,000 patriots together. The Cause was the glue that had 
done it, a catalytic agent which gave adhesive power to what 
appeared a crazy human mixture. But now that Cause seemed 
a thing of the past: the glue was becoming unstuck in idleness 
and despairing gossip. Surrender of the British at Yorktown 
in October of 1781 had insidiously dissolved the catalyst. 

A new and subtle poison had begun to eat into the heart of 
the Continental Army. The men wanted desperately to go 
home. There seemed no reason to stay any longer particularly 
without food or pay, even if at the absurd rate of only four 
pennies a day. If the war were over, the men asked, why 


Rejects a Monarchy 

shouldn't they go home? Some hadn't seen their families for 
half a decade of wandering, starving, bleeding, hurting, and 
fighting. Homes of many a ragged Continental were now deso- 
late, families in dire want. As never before or after in the 
history of our nation, the gaunt and hideous specter of starva- 
tion was haunting America that winter. 

Were there any more campaigns to bewitch and excite? Was 
there any reason to stay in camp? The men in faded buff and 
blue had ample time to ask such questions, to share their 
complaints, to worry about their deserted and hungry families, 
to bemoan the incredible futility of the Continental Congress. 
How absurdly disorganized and poverty-stricken appeared the 
tiny nation to which they had given birth in an extended agony 
of frustrating forced marches, fighting, and bloodshed. 

Despite the increasing flood of dissatisfaction and com- 
plaint, Washington ordered his soldiers to remain with him. 
The incandescent star of Valley Forge, whose name was pro- 
nounced in tones reserved for some Messiah, was still a hero 
to his men; yet now he began to seem more and more incompe- 
tent to them. He was unable, on the one hand, to let them go 
home because Britain's King George obstinately refused to 
acknowledge the loss of his best colony and Washington feared 
new encounters. 1 On the other hand, however, the six-foot 

i. Most historians believe that Yorktown need not have ended the 
war. That it did is largely because the British ministry following Lord 
North's fall was friendly to America. 



three-inch hero could not persuade that absurdity, the Con- 
tinental Congress, to send sufficient money to take care of Ms 
men. So the once great champion stubbornly required that his 
men stand ready to fight battles they could not imagine, even 
at the cost of the personal luster he had gained the autumn 
before with the surrender at Yorktown. 

The arrival in New- York, just down river from Washington's 
headquarters at Newburgh, of Sir Guy Carleton confirmed the 
General's disquiet and forebodings. Washington knew about 
Carleton's diplomatic skill and acumen in the handling of the 
Canadians. Sir Guy had upset Montgomery and Arnold in their 
early expedition against Quebec. And it was Carleton's beguil- 
ing peace talk that Washington had had in mind when he 
wrote Robert R. Livingston, then Secretary for Foreign Affairs: 2 

We want no fresh opiate to increase that stupor into 
which we have fallen, but I much fear that the idle, and 
delusive offers of Peace with which the Country resounds, 
will, if it is not powerfully counteracted, be exceedingly 
injurious to us; not (I apprehend) from any disposition of 
the people to listen to improper terms, but from a 
misconception of what is really meant, and the arts which 
are used to make them believe that Independence and 
what not, are preferred to them. 

Washington could painfully remember Sir Guy's adroit meas- 
ures placating the Roman Catholic Church activities which 
gave both English-speaking and French-speaking Canadian 
settlers sufficient autonomy to save their country for the crown. 
If Carleton had succeeded in the north he might (Washington 
thought) succeed in Tory New- York, the lone British garrison 
of any consequence still holding out against total union with 
the revolutionaries. Washington shuddered at what might 
have been had Wit and not Stupidity been King, Prime Min- 
ister, and General throughout the Colonial War. Almost any 
palpable conciliation to the Colonies, like Carleton's to Canada, 
might have shattered the revolutionary effort, never whole- 

2. John Dos Passes, The Men Who Made the Nation (Garden City, 
Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1957), p. 36. 

Rejects a Monarchy 17 

hearted nor unanimous and always subject to periods of black 

Sir Guy was in New- York, less than three days' march from 
Newburgh, backed by Admiral George Rodney's magnificent 
post-Yorktown conquests in the West Indies, where Rodney 
had lately captured St. Eustatius and thoroughly whipped the 
French fleet under De Grasse. It didn't matter for the moment 
that De Grasse's disaster in the Caribbean would inevitably 
take pressure off French claims for American aid during the 
Revolution and make the peace treaties easier to negotiate. 
New-Yorkers would surely read of Admiral Rodney's great 
West Indian conquest and toast King George anew. Rumor had 
it that settlers in the Green Mountains, eager to rid themselves 
of the border fight between New-Hampshire and New- York, 
were negotiating secretly with the British. Peace, peace, but 
there was no peace! 

In the circumstances, no general, least of all a tenacious red- 
head from Virginia, could disband his army, theoretically vic- 
torious though it was. He could not disband it; also he could 
neither feed nor pay it. 

A nineteenth-century British book gives us a brisk and dis- 
arming account of how difficult things must have been for 
Washington prior to the preliminary peace talks the following 
November. It also suggests the startling conclusion colonists 
and soldiers drew from the apparent anarchy of their time: 3 

The years 1782-83 saw discontent become quite prevalent 
throughout the (Colonial) Army. The whole Army suffered 
from arrearages of pay, and in various ways had long been 
exposed to disappointment and irritation from the vacillating 
and fluctuating course of policy of the various colonial gov- 
ernments upon which they depended, and also from the im- 
potency of Congress under the Articles of Confederation. 
These discontents naturally produced dissatisfaction with 
the civil authorities as then constituted. In meditating upon 
their wrongs, some of the officers and soldiers were led to the 
conclusion that justice could only be done to them, or the 

3. C. W. Upham, Life of George Washington, Vol. II (London, The 
National Illustrated Library, 1881), pp. 91-92. 


affairs of the public managed with efficiency and success by 
introducing a strong government. 

The idea of a Monarchy became a favorite one with per- 
sons who entertained these views, especially in the unpaid 
Army. They believed that it would be vain to attempt to 
preserve the prosperity or establish the power of a nation 
without a King, and, as a matter of course, they fixed upon 
Washington as the man on whom alone the honor and the 
burden of Royalty could be placed. 

The Continental Army was not alone in feeling the need to 
plant the seed of American monarchy to replace the unwork- 
able muddle of an impotent Continental Congress and a 
useless constitution. Beyond the garrison bugles of New- York, 
King George's royal forces, it is true, exercised little or no for- 
mal authority in the Colonies. During 1782 the Southern ports 
would be abandoned and the Continental Army become theo- 
retically supreme so long as it remained intact. But politically 
considered, the Colonies were losing their unity and their peace 
and out of this chemistry the reversion to monarchy soon 
gained headway. 4 

In March, 1781, certain Articles of Confederation had been 
adopted, but they were merely a "league of friendship" lacking 
police power of enforcement No true national executive ex- 
isted, therefore; nor were there national courts in which a man 
from Connecticut, for example, could find redress for a 
Federal 5 wrong done him by a man from Pennsylvania. Why 
should a Pennsylvania jury decide in favor of a stranger from 
New England whom they would never see again? Without 
Federal law enforced throughout the whole country in Federal 
courts under a powerful Federal executive, each colony had 
to take care of its own people and ignore the Articles and 
Continental Congress. There was no other regional choice. 

Common people, whom the Revolution was to have benefited 
most, were the first to be disillusioned by the replacement of 
the British monarchy with self-government. The Continental 

4. Allan Nevins and Henry Steele Commager, A Short History of the 
United States (New York, The Modem Library, 1945), pp. 108-34. 

5. The word "Federal" is here used in the post-1787 sense. la the 
pre-1787 sense it denoted Confederation relationship. 

Rejects a Monarchy 19 

Congress consisted of only one house in which each state had 
a single vote, regardless of size. Huge Virginia or Massachu- 
setts had to swallow legislative equality with tiny Rhode Island 
or Delaware. Twenty Bostonians were the equivalent of one 
New Hampshire farmer. This wasn't equality, as everyone 
knew, but worse still it wasn't even common sense. 

The Continental Congress could levy no taxes, punish no 
men who broke laws it passed, compel no state to observe its 
foreign treaties if it didn't like them, or enlist a single troop. 
Worst of all, it couldn't raise sufficient money to pay interest 
on a large and insolvent national debt, which daily increased, 
nor carry on the simple functions of what toothless government 
there was. The American Revolution had given a new people 
independence in the family of nations a radically altered 
social order in which privilege, wealth, and heredity counted 
for less and human equality for more. But the American people 
had yet to show they possessed a genuine capacity for self- 
government. Their loose league of friendship amounted to no 
more than an ocean of frustrations, dissensions, and imperfec- 

Though no group suffered more intensely from this chaotic 
babel than the army, disgust with The System was universal. 
In every colony at one time or another from 1782-1787 were 
introduced resolutions pleading for a change of Federal pro- 
cedure and aegis. These resolutions, it is important to note, 
did not seek more democratic systems of government. The 
most frequent toast of 1782 was, in fact, "Here's to a hoop for 
the barrel," and when Washington's officers at Newburgh said 
it they meant a Strong Man one who would give less em- 
phasis to equality and more insistence on order in government. 
They wanted Washington the hoop without whom, many felt, 
the barrel of thirteen separate staves would quickly collapse 
to be a king and they wanted him to begin the reign of a royal 

As the country's situation rapidly deteriorated in early spring, 
1782, there was a concerted drive to make Washington King 
George of America. On May 13, 1782, news of the birth of a 
Dauphin in -France ignited an absolute paroxysm of rejoicing 


in freedom-loving America, celebrations exploding without re- 
straint wherever the happy news was told. It seems likely this 
was the spark which set off the timing device of as strange a 
letter as any American has ever sent a national hero, strange 
yet somehow natural in setting, date, and circumstances. To 
plumb Washington's thinking about the subject of a monarchy, 
a letter was addressed to him May 22 by a distinguished Phila- 
delphian, an Army officer of renown and standing, Colonel 
Lewis Nicola. 6 The Colonel was a highly respected officer, no 
young hothead, an elderly Philadelphian of Huguenot extrac- 
tion who had risen to Major in the British army before emigrat- 
ing to America. Before the war he had published and edited 
the first regular magazine in Philadelphia, become one of the 
founders of the American Philosophical Society, and had 
written a drill and conduct manual for the use of Colonial 
troops. During the war he had become well known as Town 
Major of Philadelphia. 

In his carefully written proposal Colonel Nicola first summed 
up the grievances and discontents of the Army: 

The injuries the troops have received in their pecuniary 
rights have been and will continue to be too obvious to 
require a particular detail, or to have escaped your 
Excellencies [sic] notice, tho' your exalted station must have 
deprived you of opportunity of information relative to the 
severe distress occasioned thereby. 

Washington read this well-aimed salvo 7 at "the eternal igno- 
rance of top command to problems that beset the lower ranks," 
and he must have gone cold in the stomach since he himself 
knew the truth only too well. The General's correspondent 
(the ingenuous memorial was written in Colonel Nicola's hand 
with covering letter enclosed) next pointed out that the 
Continental Congress had taken no effective action to find 
money for the arrears owed the Army. Not only was the 
Army's paper "not worth a Continental/' but it was for the 
most part nonexistent. 

6. Dos Passes, op. cit., pp. 37-39. 

7. Joseph DiHaway Sawyer, Washington, VoL II (New York, The 
Macmillan Company, 1927), pp. 84-94. 

Rejects a Monarchy si 

This gives us a dismal prospect for the time to come 
[Washington read on] and much reason to fear the future 
provision promised to officers, and the settling and 
satisfying their and their men's just demands will be little 
attended to, when our services are no longer wanted, and 
that the recompense of all our toils, hardships, expense 
of private fortune will be, to those who cannot earn a 
livelihood by manual labor, beggary; and that we who 
have borne the heat and labor of the day will be forgotten 
by such as reap the benefits without suffering any of the 

Washington's petitioner then stated that officers as well as 
men were selling their pay certificates and paper money to 
speculators at enormous discounts. To keep body and soul to- 
gether, the worn heroes of American liberty were having to 
settle for a small part of the value of the paper, "never more 
than one-tenth, but often less/' The Army's patience was 
running out, wrote Colonel Nicola, and an explosion seemed 
imminent. He went on: 

I believe it is generally intended not to separate after the 
peace until all grievances are redressed, engagements and 
promises fulfilled . . . God forbid that we should ever 
think of involving that country which we have, under your 
conduct and auspices, rescued from oppression, into a new 
scene of blood and confusion, but it cannot be expected 
we should forego claims on which our future subsistence 
and that of our families depend. 

Nicola then began a carefully reasoned argument against 
democracy as a workable form of government (the word for 
democracy was more popularly "republick" in those days). 
Said he: "I own that I am not that violent admirer of a repub- 
lican form of government that numbers in this country are." 
He cited the disasters to the aristocratic municipalities of 
Genoa and Venice, and the weakness of the Dutch Republic 
as proof that republicanism was flaccid and unworkable, as 
that parody on good government, the Continental Congress, 
was amply proving. 

"Does not the great similarity there [the Dutch Republic's 


failure] between her form of government and ours give us 
room to fear our fate will be like hers?" he asked. The truth of 
this sally must have made anguished reading for the patriot of 
Valley Forge. He knew better than most how impotent were 
the Articles of Confederation and the Continental Congress, 
and he must have been able at this point to guess what Nicola 
was about to suggest: a return to monarchy in limited form 
similar to the English style. Nicola rammed home his point: 

This war must have shown us all, but to military men in 
particular, the weakness of republicks. . . . 

The same abilities which have led us, through 
difficulties apparently insurmountable by human power, 
to victory and glory, these qualities that have merited and 
obtained the universal esteem and veneration of an army 
would be most likely to conduct and direct us in the 
smoother paths of peace. Some people have so connected 
the ideas of tyranny and monarchy as to find it very difficult 
to separate them; it may therefore be requisite to give the 
head of such a constitution as I propose some title 
apparently more moderate, but if all things are once 
adjusted I believe strong arguments might be produced 
for admitting the title of King. 8 

Nicola even had a suggestion for solving the Army's terrible 
pay problem under the new American monarchy. Congress 
would, on the day of the coronation, pay arrears owed to men 
and officers, one third in cash, the remainder in public lands 
to the West where the Army's families would pioneer a new 
state as a military buffer against British and Indians a sort 
of frontier police force at the rim of the colonial stockade. 

Though Washington had been raised an aristocrat and had 
sworn fidelity to the crown as a young colonial officer, his Vir- 
ginia upbringing had taught him the necessity for the military 
to be subordinate to the civil power. From Douglas Southall 
Freeman's biography of Washington, it is clear that the essen- 
tial equality of man and man had somehow, somewhere pene- 
trated the very core of George Washington's thinking at an 
early age. He was an instinctive gentleman in the finest sense 

8. Revolutionary Archives, Pequot Library, Southport, Connecticut. 

Rejects a Monarchy 23 

of that noble word, but he was also an instinctive democrat. 
He had too often seen colonial interest sacrificed to British 
Toryism to hold any great love for the third George and if he 
had ever supported the House of Hanover it was certain that 
a man of his character superseded this fealty the hour he took 
command of the Continental Army by his oath of allegiance 
to the revolution. 

A military man, Washington doubtless had the same black 
doubts about representative government that the army mind 
always harbors. Nevertheless, as the years wore on, he saw 
more clearly that The Cause had become indissolubly inter- 
twined with the equality of man and he had given his solemn 
word to champion in every way "the support of the Glorious 
Cause/' When the war was finally at an end and the peace 
treaty signed, he planned to ride back to his beloved Mount 
Vernon and to remain there forever. And as a final gesture of 
love and affection for the cause of independence and liberty 
he had served so magnificently., Washington had decided, it is 
now known, to lay down his command without any payment 
or reward. For such a just man, Colonel Nicola's proposal of 
kingship must have been chastening and shocking. 

Early Americans were well acquainted with the various pro- 
posals to make George Washington a monarch and the subject 
was common table talk throughout the trying period between 
revolution and constitution. One of the most popular books 
of its time was Parson Weems's famous, if imaginative, school- 
boy account of the life of George Washington. In it was born 
the wholly untrue but delightful story of George Washington 
and the cherry tree ("Father, I cannot tell a lie. I did it with 
my little hatchet"). Yet, besides complete fabrication, Weems's 
precious volume contains much that reflects the age of Wash- 
ington, and from its pages, which went through forty editions 
after 1800, the thread of the seriousness of the agitation to 
create an American monarchy with Washington as King George 
the First is markedly evident. 9 

9. M. L. Weems, Life of George Washington (Philadelphia, Joseph 
Allen, 1800), pp. 131-32. The Rev. Weems was formerly rector of 
Mount Vernon Parish, and the book was sold by J. Grigg, No. 9 North 
Fourth Street. 


Weems writes that, around the time of Nicola's formal offer 
to support or launch a monarchial system with Washington its 
king, the man who was "first in war, first in peace and first in 
the hearts of his countrymen" became "suddenly alarmed by 
the appearance of an evil which threatened to put an end to 
all his well-meant labours for ever this was the incipient 
dissolution of the federal government!!!" Weems's report 
quotes Washington as saying: "We cannot long exist as a 
nation, without lodging somewhere a power that may com- 
mand the full energies of the nation for defense from all its 
enemies, and the supply of all its wants. The people will soon 
be tired of such a government. They will sign for a change; 
and many of them already begin to talk of Monarchy, without 
horror II* 

Owen Wister's more authentic Seven Ages of Washington 10 
underlines the father's concern for his country as an incipient 
dictatorship. Between Yorktown and the signing of the peace, 
Wister writes, "to men's angry minds it occurred that there 
were not many steps to march between themselves and the 
control of government and they talked of their beloved leader 
as Dictator. Washington's words (to Nicola) quickly burst 
the bubble." 

In response to what Dr. Freeman calls "the preposterous 
and plundering suggestion" 11 of Colonel Nicola amid the pub- 
lic clamor for a monarchy, Washington took immediate action. 
He wrote so that no one, then or ever, could misunderstand. 
In addition, he took the precaution, for purposes of record, of 
asking both Humphrys and Trumbull, his military amanuenses, 
to sign an attestation that the copy of his letter they sent off in 
reply to Nicola was a true one. If the matter ever came out 
(as it was bound to amid much sentiment along these lines) 
he wanted to be in the position of being able to counter the 
"animadversions" he dreaded. 12 

This is his letter to Nicola in full. It begins "Newburg [sic], 

10. Owen Wister, The Seven Ages of Washington (New York, The 
Macmillan Company, 1907), p. 194. 

11. Douglas Soufiall Freeman, George Washington, Vol. V (New 
York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1952), p. 416. 

12. Dos Passos, op. cit., pp. 38-39. 

Rejects a Monarchy 25 

22 May, 1782," two months after the new British cabinet had 
recognized American independence, yet more than six months 
prior to the signing of the preliminary agreement in Paris on 
November 30: 

Sir, With a mixture of great surprise and 
astonishment, I have read with attention the sentiments 
you have submitted to my perusal. Be assured, sir, no 
occurrence in the course of the war has given me more 
painful sensations, than your information of there being such 
ideas existing in the Army, as you have expressed, and I 
must view with abhorrence and reprehend with severity, 
For the present the communication of them will rest in my 
bosom, unless some further agitation of the matter shall 
make a disclosure necessary. 

I am much at a loss to conceive what part of my 
conduct could have given encouragement to an address, 
which to me seems big with the greatest mischiefs, that can 
befall my country. If I am not deceived in the knowledge of 
myself, you could not have found a person to whom your 
schemes are more disagreeable. At the same time, in justice 
to my own feelings, I must add, that no man possesses a 
more sincere wish to see ample justice done to the Army 
than I do; and, as far as my powers and influence, in a 
constitutional way, extend, they shall be employed to the 
utmost of my abilities to effect it, should there be any 
occasion. Let me conjure you, then, if you have any regard 
for your country, concern for yourself or posterity, or 
respect for me, to banish these thoughts from your mind, 
and never communicate, as from yourself or anyone else, a 
sentiment of the like nature. 
I am, sir, your most obedient servant 

G. Washington 

If the General had been aghast and chastened at Colonel 
Nicola's 13 memorial to him, his reaction was as nothing com- 
pared with Nicola's when he received Washington's stern reply. 
So shocked was the Colonel at the tone of his commander and 
the flagrant lashing his proposal had received that he wrote 

13. Washington spelled Colonel Nicola's name "Nichola" in the saluta- 
tion of his response. 


three separate letters of apology in the next few days. All had 
different dates and^ it is even likely, historians say, that he 
wrote others which he subsequently destroyed. All expressed 
profuse sorrow for misdoings, all were forthright and gentle- 
manly, and all of them backtracked rapidly. Yet somehow none 
ever really came to grips with the General's fundamental point. 
Without precisely retracting anything about the glories of 
monarchy, they bowed to General Washington's superior judg- 
mentand rank: "Since I find your sentiments so different 
from mine I shall consider myself as having been under a 
strong delusion and beg leave to assure you it shall be my fu- 
ture study to combat, as far as my abilities reach, every gleam 
of discontent,'* 

From that hour onward, the man his people would unhesi- 
tatingly call the Father of his Country knew that, just as he 
had spent his life's vigor in raising a makeshift army and 
keeping it alive over seven intrepid years, his energies must 
now be focused wholly on getting that army home again 
without a calamity, Nicola's letters had dramatized it as 
nothing else could. 

There are those who like to believe that Washington was 
actually not averse to such a royal scheme. Many modern 
patriotic societies based on blood descent from revolutionary 
heroes have mirrored such sentiments. Such groups speak of 
how Washington was first President of the Society of the Cin- 
cinnati, where a well-grounded effort, one which gained con- 
siderable headway after the revolution, sought to create a 
permanent nobility. Nor, they also point out, was Colonel 
Nicola's proposal the only one. So monarchial was the at- 
mosphere of this country in 1782 that Gouverneur Morris, the 
superpatriot whose family name was signed to the Declaration 
of Independence and had long been a votary of the common 
man, wrote to General Nathanael Greene in the Carolinas: "I 
have no hope that our union can subsist except in the form of 
an absolute monarchy." 

Even so sterling an American as John Adams was dubious 
about democracy, and he spoke of its questionable stability and 
leaned for a time to a stronger executive. John Jay supported 

Rejects a Monarchy 27 

for a while the idea of an American monarchy. The King bee 
buzzed in many a patriotic brain and colonists had no sooner 
thrown one monarch into discard than they began to yearn for 
another in the muddled morass of do-nothing self-rule. Would- 
be courtiers, possessed of more ardor than common sense, 
made several abortive attempts to establish royalty in a new 
nation that had just rejected and repudiated it. 

A popular song of the time, "No King But God/' composed 
by Nathaniel Billings, is said to have aided materially in kill- 
ing the monarchy idea and restoring the democratic logic of 
Paine and Jefferson. But that Washington might have become 
King George was apparently possible at almost any hour be- 
tween Yorktown and the Constitutional Convention. 

Henry Cabot Lodge the elder wrote in his biography of 
Washington: 14 

This incident has been passed over altogether too care- 
lessly by historians and biographers. It has generally been 
used merely to show the general nobility of Washington's 
sentiments, and no proper stress has been laid upon the facts 
of the time which gave birth to such an idea and such a 
proposition. It would have been a perfectly feasible thing at 
that particular moment to have altered the frame of gov- 
ernment and placed the successful soldier in possession of 
supreme power. The notion of kingly government was, of 
course, entirely familiar to everybody . . . 

Thomas Carlyle wrote disparagingly of George Washington 
because he let events take their natural course and did not 
"seize the tottering government with a strong hand." But Lodge 
feels this is woeful misunderstanding of the man who flung 
aside the mere suggestion of total, dictatorial power which 
might have been his for a nod of the head, not simply because 
becoming king would be unpatriotic and dishonorable, but 
because such a result would have defeated the one great and 
noble object at which he aimed." It was harder to wait it out, 
to restore order by muddling through slowly, painfully but 
from the people up, not from a dictatorship downward. Far 

14. Henry Cabot Lodge, George Washington, Vol. I (Boston, Hough- 
ton Mifflin Company, 1917), p. 336. 


easier would have been martial law and order restored at the 
head of the willing Army. What is the glory that belongs to 
Washington alone is that he was keenly aware of the defi- 
ciencies of democracy under the Continental Congress, yet had 
the patience to refuse supreme rule and let this tiny, new seed 
sprout and break through the earth of freedom. 

Washington continued to decry the idea of monarchy and 
kingship, by letter, in speeches, through continuous support 
of the philosophy that common men were able to govern 
themselves, a most radical concept in his time. In his last 
circular letter to the states on June 8, 1783, the General 
stressed points he had repeatedly touched upon in his public 
utterances. He was not unaware, it should be emphasized, of 
the defects in the Articles of Confederation which governed 
the young Republic. 15 

There are four things [he wrote] which I humbly conceive 
are essential to the well-being, I may even venture to say, 
to the existence of the United States as an independent 

First. An indissoluble Union of States under one Federal 

Secondly. A sacred regard to the public justice. 

Thirdly. The adoption of a proper peace establishment, 

Fourthly. The prevalence of that pacific and friendly dis- 
position among the people of the United States which will 
induce them to forget their local prejudices and policies, to 
make those mutual concessions which are requisite to the 
general prosperity and, in some instances, to sacrifice their 
individual advantages to the interest of the community. 

If anyone else has written a better definition of the respon- 
sibilities of individuals in a democracy it has been lost to 
posterity. These are not the words of a man who wanted to be 
king, who privately dwelt in marble halls and dreamed of 
sitting on a throne. This is the philosophy of a true democrat. 
Had he for a moment seriously entertained tenderness for 

15. George Washington BiCentennial Commission Report, Washing- 
ton, D.C., U. S. Government Printing Office, 1932. 

Rejects a Monarchy 29 

monarchy with his own blood line, the royal American family, 
he could never have written the concluding portion of the 
foregoing letter. Thomas Paine or Thomas Jefferson could have 
done no better. 

As late as August i, 1786 only nine months before the Con- 
stitutional Convention monarchy in America was still raising 
its ugly head and Washington was still combating it. In a 
letter which Washington wrote to John Jay on that date, we 
read: 16 

Your sentiments, that our affairs are drawing rapidly to a 
crisis, accord with my own. What the event will be, is also 
beyond the reach of my foresight. We have errors to correct. 
We have probably had too good an opinion of human 
nature in forming our confederation. Experience has 
taught us, that men will not adopt and carry into execution 
measures the best calculated for their own good, without 
the intervention of a coercive power. I do not conceive we 
can long exist as a nation without having lodged somewhere 
a power, which will pervade the whole Union in as energetic 
a manner as the authority of the State governments extend 
over the several states. 

To be fearful of investing Congress, constituted as that 
body is, with ample authorities for national purposes, appears 
to me tie very climax of popular absurdity and madness. 

What astonishing changes a few years are capable of 
producing! I am told that even respectable characters speak 
of a Monarchial form of government without horror. From 
thinking proceeds speaking; thence to acting is often but a 
single step. But how irrevocable and tremendous! What a 
triumph for the advocates of despotism to find, that we are 
incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded 
on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal and fallacious! 
Would to God that wise measures may be taken in time to 
avert the consequences we have but too much reason to 

By May of 1787, with the opening of the Constitutional Con- 
vention, the seed of the first American monarchy had been 
uprooted completely by the one man who could in all likeli- 

16. Ibid. 


hood have become king. 17 But then, something better and more 
durable than monarchy was already being built: the totally 
unique democratic Republic we have in America today. In 
the creation of that democracy in a republic it was Washington 
himself, the devout and lonely patriot, who made the firm de- 
cision about what the American Presidency was to become: 
not a hereditary monarch, a constitutional monarchy, a military 
junta with dictator, nor a colonial despotism under foreign rule 
and local peers, but the freely elected (and replaceable) Chief 
Executive of all the people. This above all we owe the first 
President of the United States. 

17. The United States Senate, early in its life, actually voted to refer 
to George Washington as "His Highness, the President of the United 
States," but the House voted it down. 

Thomas Jefferson 

JT WAS one million square miles of the most continuously 
JL fertile land in the world, and the President's agents bought 
it for less than 3^ an acre. It was a territory obtained without 
the expenditure of a single life or even one drop of blood. 
Thirteen states would be carved out of it larger and wealthier 
than the original Thirteen Colonies and richer than any com- 
parable stretch of land anywhere in the world. This land gave 
to a young nation vision of its destiny as a two-ocean world 
power and guaranteed that the vital port of New Orleans would 
be permanently American, opening the vast Mississippi-Mis- 
souri-Ohio heartland all the way to the sea. From the moment 
of its purchase, the United States could turn her back on the 
Atlantic and forget for more than a century Europe's ageless 

The purchase of this territory was surely the greatest real 
estate bargain in the history of the world. And when we con- 
sider that it was accomplished without the prior consent of a 
newly elected Congress, most of whose members had just been 
campaigning (as had Jefferson himself) against the very Con- 
stitutional powers that would make it a legal act, the Louisiana 
Purchase becomes all the more astounding and prophetic. 

Though many considered it an un-Constitutional transaction, 
the Louisiana Purchase was nevertheless immediately recog- 
nized in Washington as so rich a bargain that many principles 
and scruples went quickly overboard in order to justify it, The 
Senate, which must ratify all treaties, approved the procure- 


Buys Louisiana - On His Own 

ment of Louisiana in less than three days, and Jeffersonian 
democrats joined hands with their bitterest Tory opponents in 
ratification and celebration of a magnificent event. 

Because of the factors of distance and time, Jefferson had 
given his representatives in Paris implied carte blanche to bar- 
gain for the port of New Orleans and part of Florida, per- 
mitting them to bid as high as $2,000,000. To this and this only, 
Congress had reluctantly assented prior to their departure for 
Paris. Yet when the opportunity suddenly came, Jefferson's 
faraway agents struck quite another deal one that changed 
the course of our whole history. They spent more in one eve- 
ning in Paris than the Federal budget then allowed for an 
entire year, and they spent it without legal precedent of any 

Finally, by another incredible twist, history chose John 
Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States, Jefferson's arch 
enemy, to provide the constitutionality for the purchase of the 
Louisiana vastness. If a man called John Marshall had never 
lived, if another man had been named Chief Justice (which 
would have suited Jefferson perfectly), Jefferson himself might 
have been impeached as a traitor and his representatives in 
Paris declared guilty of high treason. In the end, it was Mar- 
shall's liberal interpretation of basic Federal law which vouch- 
safed Jefferson and the legality of the purchase under "broad 
powers implied by the Constitution.'* Indeed, this fundamental 
conflict of Constitutional philosophies states' rights and strict 



construction on Jefferson's side; strong central government and 
broad, implied powers on Marshall's underlies the whole 
fantastic story. 

Of all battles for control of the Constitutional destiny and 
direction of the early Untied States, that between Marshall 
and Jefferson cannot be outranked. Here two tremendous 
political philosophies clashed continually in a bloody running 
war to prove the true meaning of the Constitution and the 
power of the judiciary. For the first thirty months of Jefferson's 
first term he scrapped and argued with Marshall, acquiescing 
only as he approached treasonable disregard of the Chief 
Justice's decisions giving the Union strong central powers. 

In a series of famous decisions early in the life of the Su- 
preme Court, Federal jurisdiction and the ultimate power of 
the court were molded. The names whirl through early U. S. 
history like giant snowflakes before a winter storm, There are 
Marbury v. Madison, the Dartmouth College case, McCulloch 
v. Maryland, Gibbons v. Ogden, Martin v. Mott, the American 
Insurance Company v. Canter, and scores of others. Except to 
those of legal mind, the names are unimportant, but what these 
legal precedents established should matter terribly to every 
American. 1 In the end, John Marshall's broad construction of 
implied powers clearly won, and Thomas Jefferson's "illegal" 
purchase of the Louisiana Territory was ironically sustained by 
none other than his greatest political enemy. 

This is, then, the amazing story of a strange alliance to 
legalize the first great stroke of executive power by a President 
of the United States, an act which fixed forever a pattern of 
the President as the nation's Chief Executive, and a strong one. 
From Jefferson's Administration on, a President began to be 
much more than a European-style figurehead, of use chiefly in 
ceremonials. He would be the king, the queen, the representa- 
tion of the flag on the one hand, and the chief executive officer 
of the majority political party on the other, and many other 

i. From sources in the Harvard Guide to American History (Cam- 
bridge, Mass., The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1954). See 
pp. 327-28 for complete bibliography on Louisiana Purchase and John 
Marshall's decisions affecting it. 

Buys Louisiana On His Own 35 

things as well. From that moment of history, the Presidency be- 
came a lively third of the tripartite Federal government, and 
the Supreme Court a judiciary without precedent. And it was 
Chief Justice Marshall, whose judicial decisions blessed the 
bold stroke of the Louisiana Purchase as a legal act, ex post 
facto as something perfectly within the limits of the President's 
implied powers. 

Any schoolboy knows Thomas Jefferson, yet John Marshall's 
name is often found to be obscure. If Americans were asked to 
identify John Marshall, only two in ten could do it 2 Yet here 
is a man who was Chief Justice of the United States from 1801 
to 1835 when the very status and meaning of the Supreme 
Court were in the molding. No period of American history 
established more precedents; therefore, no period of American 
history meant more to the future pattern of Constitutional law. 

Born in a log cabin on the Virginia frontier, John Marshall 
spent his boyhood in straitened, primitive surroundings, though 
distantly related to the rich Randolphs and Lees through his 
mother, as well as to Thomas Jefferson. Marshall served as an 
officer in the American Revolution, returning to Virginia law 
and politics where he made such a mark that George Washing- 
ton sought him as Attorney General of the United States, and 
later wanted him for American Minister of France. Both of 
these posts he turned down. He did, however, represent the 
young country in France during the XYZ Affair which con- 
cerned America's post-Revolutionary relations with France and 
England, and which ended in a weakening of the traditional 
French- American friendship. 

Marshall's astuteness in uncovering French diplomatic du- 
plicity in the XYZ Affair made him a popular American figure 
and he was elected to Congress from Virginia as a Federalist 
in 1799. One of a small but loyal unit which continued to sup- 
port John Adams, Marshall became Adams's Secretary of State 
in 1800. A year later, just before Jefferson took office, Marshall 
was appointed Chief Justice of the United States. The Senate 

2. Statistic from a New York Herald Tribune survey of famous Amer- 
ican names. 


confirmed him, after a battle, most of Jefferson's Democratic- 
Republicans and the anti-Adams Federalists being justifiably 
skeptical of Marshall's competence as an interpreter of law for 
the common man against the traditional rights of the aristocrat. 

In thirty-four years of service as Chief Justice, Marshall 
emerged as the most powerful, famous, and precedent-making 
jurist in the history of America. He raised the Supreme Court 
from an anomalous position in the Federal triangle of execu- 
tive-legislative-judicial to one of majesty, power, and precedent 
a balance wheel to be carefully reckoned with. By the 
breadth and wisdom of his carefully reasoned decisions, and 
by his broad interpretation of the Federal Constitution much 
of this interpretation the first precedents in our law John 
Marshall earned the right to be known as the Great Chief 

But Marshall's achievements matched his philosophical-legal 
quarrels with Presidents Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, 
and Jackson, with all of whom he constantly warred. Mar- 
shall was a loyal Federalist, a conservative who felt national 
unity and Federal power essential to the future of the United 
States of America. This cement took the form of historic inter- 
pretations of the Federal Constitution which were, at the time 
and in the circumstances, considered radical, strange, even un- 
American. Beyond doubt they established an independent and 
powerful judiciary. 

John Marshall strengthened enormously the guarantee of 
the security of private property in an age born of the French 
and American revolutions. Above all, Marshall set forever the 
precedent that the Supreme Court of the United States had 
the right to review all legislation challenged as to its constitu- 
tionality. If declared un-Constitutional, a law was null and 
void; Congress and the Chief Executive would simply have to 
start over again in another direction. This "veto" power over 
all laws through judicial review had no parallel in other na- 
tions; it was an American phenomenon. 

Chief Justice Marshall viewed the Constitution as a living 
instrument which could be broadly interpreted to make legal 
acts that the original framers could not possibly have fore- 

Buys Louisiana On His Oton 37 

seen. 3 These "broad, implied powers" enabled future Presi- 
dents, among them Roosevelt and Truman, to use virtual 
dictatorial power in later crises which cried out for quick, de- 
cisive action, in F.D.R/s case the amazing activity that dis- 
pelled the blackness of the Depression, in Truman's the "police 
action** history calls the Korean War. 

But broad as these powers were, through John Marshall's in- 
terpretation, other powers were quite clearly delegated and 
specifically reserved in the document he grew to know so well. 
These were certain powers earmarked, for example, for the 
Senate, such as ratifying a treaty or trying a President for im- 
peachment; other powers reserved to the states, such as the 
right of each state to decide its own age qualifications for 
voting in presidential elections (eighteen in Kentucky and 
Georgia, nineteen in Alaska, and twenty in Hawaii, but twenty- 
one in the other forty-six states). 

In the famous case of McCulloch v. Maryland, Marshall for- 
ever fixed the precedent that the Federal government must be 
flexible, have room to move around in. The Constitution could, 
therefore, as Mr. Dooley later said, "follow th' liction re- 
turns," In other words, it was to be a document broad enough 
to be adaptable to any age or circumstance. 

Inviolability of American contracts was established in the 
Dartmouth College case. In Gibbons v. Ogden, Marshall ruled 
in favor of Federal power in interstate commerce at the expense 
of each state's rights. It was a national matter, he argued, once 
a vehicle or merchandise had crossed one state line into an- 
other, and so it has since remained by Federal precedent. 

Marshall generally opposed the doctrine of states* rights 
when they clashed with Federal rights. The frequently undig- 
nified quarrels with Jefferson had one of their earlier detona- 
tions in the case of Marbury v. Madison wherein Marshall 
firmly fixed the right of the Supreme Court to review the con- 
stitutionality of legislation, sometimes even down to local laws. 
Thus, the Supreme Court of the United States ultimately be- 
came more powerful than the judiciary of any other democratic 

3. E. S. Brown, Constitutional History of the Louisiana "Purchase, 
(Berkeley, Calif., University of California Press, 1920), passim. 


:>r constitutional monarchial form. It was Marshall's undeni- 
ible, unanswerable logic that made this view stick. 

John Marshall mixed the honest friendliness of the hearty 
Frontier with the grace of a Virginia gentleman. His writing 
style was exact, concise, and eminently clear. Each opinion 
developed from a series of logical sequences deduced from 
self-evident propositions which no true friend of the common 
cnan could deny. He almost never cited legal authority. He sim- 
ply set precedent himself; and for this, if for nothing else, he 
must have seemed the devil incarnate to Thomas Jefferson. 

Shifting political currents in Europe were creating a new 
era and new issues as the nineteenth century opened and Jef- 
Ferson became the people's President. Napoleon was by now 
master of France, threatening most of Europe, eager to extend 
his power to the primitive New World which must surely have 
seemed defenseless to him. The French war with England had 
Eaded because the English could not sustain their end of it; the 
United States of America, now a genuine political unit, was 
nevertheless tender and impotent, a nation no European mili- 
tarist yet took seriously. 

On October i, 1800, by the secret treaty of San Ildefonso, 
Spain was "persuaded" to cede all of the vast Louisiana Terri- 
tory to France and Napoleon. The newly elected Jeffersonian 
Administration had just taken over by the time the news 
reached Washington early in 1801. Jefferson was alarmed, and 
wrote to the U. S. Minister in Paris, Robert R. Livingston: "It 
completely reverses all the political relations of the U. S. and 
atill form a new epoch in our political course." 4 This, as things 
would turn out, was the understatement of his life. 

Quickly, U. S. foreign policy would find itself in a state of 
political change. France had, of all nations on earth, been 
\merica's staunch partner during the Revolution. Lafayette 
was an unprecedented American hero, the French people our 
latural friends. Yet, whoever possessed a certain swampy pin- 
point on the planet had to be America's natural enemy. That 

4. Adrienne Koch, Jefferson and Madison (New York, Alfred A, 
Cnopf, Inc., 1950), p. 232. 

Buys Louisiana On His Own 39 

swampy pinpoint was New Orleans. "There is on the globe one 
single spot, the possessor which is our natural and habitual 
enemy. It is New Orleans . . ." Jefferson wrote Livingston. 5 

Nothing could have more radically reversed U. S. foreign 
policy. For two generations the United States had, as Adrienne 
Koch so aptly puts it, been "fending off the British monarchy 
and championing France" and suddenly the administration 
was faced with "the fear that an unfriendly spirit prevails in 
the most important individuals of the [French] government 
towards us." 6 Napoleon could not and did not cotton to repub- 
lican democracy as represented by Thomas Jefferson. The 
egotistical Corsican detested liberty, equality, fraternity. He 
considered himself chosen of God to rule not only the Old 
World but the New as well. 

The fact that Jefferson had been an enthusiastic friend of 
French radicals and was currently adored by the leading philo- 
sophical minds in France did not help the American cause a 
bit. In a penetrating generalization later at Monticello, Jeffer- 
son wisely put Napoleon's distrust of the United States this 
way: "Bonaparte hates our government because it is a living 
libel on his." 

Talleyrand was quick to point to America as a splendid 
arena for new Napoleonic glory. In March, 1802, the Peace of 
Amiens threw open to France and other nations the world's 
oceans, which had been British-dominated for generations. 
Twenty years before, this pact would have been hailed in the 
New World. Now it was regarded with consternation. 

These developments deeply worried Jefferson, for no man 
was more interested in the welfare of the West than he. So long 
as the outlet for the Mississippi basin had been in the careless, 
indolent hands of Spain, trouble could be averted. But once 
leased to the strongest of European countries under a tyrant 
like Napoleon, and with the high seas open to French ships, 
the entire United States was in jeopardy. 

5. Ralph Henry Gabriel, The Pageant of America, Vol. VIII (New 
Haven, Yale University Press, 1927), pp. 209-12. 

6. Jefferson to Livingston, October 10, 1802, Writings (Ford), VIII, 


The Spanish government quickly closed the port of New 
Orleans on technical grounds that the United States had failed 
to apply for an extension of friendly if loose trade privileges 
provided for in the Pinckney Treaty of 1795. These privileges 
had never been formally renewed and were by now considered 
automatic. When Spain acceded to Napoleon and closed the 
port of New Orleans, which meant French control of the Missis- 
sippi basin, the newly opened West became understandably 

All of the West drained into the Gulf of Mexico. Mushroom- 
ing trade along the great Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi rivers 
knew but one means of transportation across the great distances 
in the West and South in those days: water. Jefferson tried to 
solve the Napoleonic enigma by diplomacy but many in Con- 
gress called for war. Jefferson wrote to Livingston in Paris 
and what he asked Livingston to do was something no Presi- 
dent of the United States had yet done or asked a subordinate 
to carry out. Jefferson was for the first time the Chief Execu- 
tive of the United States taking a bold new presidential step. 

Livingston was to begin at once to sound out Napoleon on 
American purchase of West Florida and New Orleans. Living- 
ston was to impress the Corsican with our determination to 
keep the Mississippi open, yet attempt also to gain physical 
possession of the vital delta. Jefferson's favorite negotiator, the 
tough, wiry James Monroe, was dispatched to Paris to help 
Livingston's diplomacy. 

From the banks of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri rivers 
nothing could have seemed more vital than the success of the 
American negotiation. Into the long reaches of the great prairie 
basin, the jolting wagons of pioneers had kept pushing the fron- 
tier westward in a swelling tide. Settlers seeded their log 
cabins mile by mile along river fronts and the newly opened 
roads. The Mississsippi River itself was the ultimate commer- 
cial highway and New Orleans its destination. 

Napoleon had already begun preparing an expedition to his 
newly acquired Louisiana; a general of division, three generals 
of brigade, five battalions of infantry, two companies of artil- 

Buys Louisiana On His Own 41 

lery, sixteen pieces of cannon, and 3,000 muskets were allotted 
for this purpose and ordered to Dunkirk for departure to the 
New World. But, as fast as regiments could be manned and 
armed and their generals appointed, they were consumed in a 
fiery furnace called Santo Domingo, a hot little island in the 
Caribbean that was to mean so much to the future of the 
United States and the reputation of Thomas Jefferson. This 
island was known to others as "HaytT; it was inhabited chiefly 
by African slaves whom the French found impossible to colo- 
nize. The principal reason for this could have been the native 
leadership of the Haitians by a Negro patriot and martyr, a 
self-educated slave named Fran9ois Dominique Toussaint 
L'Ouverture. This handsome man had joined the Negro rebel- 
lion in 1791. He was its organizational genius. Rapidly rising in 
power, Toussaint L'Ouverture combined forces with the Span- 
ish and, in a series of lightning thrusts, became known by the 
French as "L'Ouverture," a name he gladly adopted. Though 
this black knight professed devotion to France, first to the 
revolution, then to Napoleon, he was perpetually devoted to 
the freedom of his own people. 

In 1801, Toussaint conquered the whole of Santo Domingo, 
ceded to France by Spain in 1795. Napoleon was forced to send 
a task force to subdue him; in 1802, the bloody battle between 
two great military figures was joined in the steaming island 
jungles of the New World. But Haitian resistance was stub- 
born and the natives acquired a powerful natural ally, yellow 
fever. In 1802 alone, 50,000 Frenchmen were lowered into 
their graves on the island of Santo Domingo, dead of war and 
fever, with fever the more deadly. 7 

The ultimate success of U. S. negotiations in Paris was un- 
deniably aided by this great black, who was later treacherously 
seized by Napoleon during an armistice, transported to France, 
and disposed of in the dreadful dungeon of Fort-de-Joux in the 
French Jura. As at other junctures in American history, 
Europe's distresses became America's fortune, and Napoleon 

7. Samuel Flagg Bemis, A Diplomatic History of the United States 
(New York, Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1950), pp. 126-37. 


was forcefully persuaded to abandon the strategic Caribbean 
island on which he had placed such faith as the hub of his 
attempt at colonization of the New World. 

As a result of Napoleon's losses in Haiti, Louisiana was now 
all but useless to him. England moreover was agitating for 
another war to unseat the Emperor of France and had strong 
new allies on the Continent whose eager armies would outman 
Napoleon's. He had nothing to spare with which to staff or 
arm fresh expeditions to Santo Domingo, let alone Louisiana. 

The scourge of the Continent was increasingly desperate for 
money. Louisiana now being less than no value to him as real 
estate, and a costly outpost to boot, it also represented quick 
money for Napoleon's pocket. Moreover, the Corsican's military 
instinct told him to shorten his lines before fresh European 
trouble. At the same time he could restore what had been a 
most valuable friendship for half a century: American-French 

In Paris, long weeks of perilous ocean travel away from 
Washington, Livingston was summoned suddenly, in April, 
1803, to the French foreign office where Frangois Marquis de 
Barbe-Marbois, Napoleon's chief negotiator, made him an offer 
which must have sent blood to his cheeks. Livingston had 
come pleading for the purchase of New Orleans and possibly 
West Florida, too. Now Barbe-Marbois officially offered him a 
quarter of a continent the whole of the vast Louisiana 
Territory. Livingston had badgered the Emperor with written 
and verbal warnings, remonstrances, and arguments for months, 
intended to prove that the Americans were not empire build- 
ers, that Napoleon should invite the Americans to protect 
Louisiana from the Canadians, that Florida and Louisiana 
consisted largely of barren sand and sunken marshes, that 
New Orleans was important to the United States only because 
it sat astride the common mouth of a dozen major rivers west 
of the Alleghenies. In short, France could care nothing for such 
remote, desolate places which, to the American West, meant 
a great deal. 

Monroe was not to arrive in Paris until late in April, 1803, 
and his presentation at the Tuileries was delayed until May i. 

Buys Louisiana On His Own 43 

By this time, the French had privately told Livingston they 
were willing to give up the whole Louisiana Territory, and 
three weeks had already been spent haggling over a price. The 
very night of Monroe's presentation, he and Livingston had a 
postdinner discussion with Marbois, who abruptly made 
Napoleon's final offer. Knowing that when Bonaparte offered 
a favor, suitors did well to waste no time in acceptance, Mon- 
roe and Livingston hastily whispered together, and a bargain 
was quickly struck with Marbois for $15,000,000, not all of it 
in cash. Weeks were required to draw up final treaty papers in 
two languages, but they were dated back to April 30, 1803. 

Throughout this top-level haggling, the American negotia- 
tors were at the disadvantage of never being able to make 
contact with the home office. All they had was Thomas Jeffer- 
son's carte blanche, the President's word that what they did, 
provided it was within reason, would be ratified when they 
returned to Washington. But was the whole of the Louisiana 
Territory and the unauthorized sum of $15,000,000 "within 
reason"? It was a preposterous sum in those days, the equiva- 
lent of a large percentage of the entire American public debt 
and much more than the government had spent during John 
Adams's final twelve months in office. It was, moreover, an act 
both Livingston and Monroe inwardly felt to be un-Constitu- 
tional, and it had been Jefferson's philosophy which had so 
persuaded them. 

On the republican principles of Jefferson, only the states 
themselves could authorize incorporation into the union of the 
United States. Yet this treaty which Jefferson's authorized 
amanuenses were signing provided that "the inhabitants of the 
ceded territory shall be incorporated in the Union of the 
United States, and admitted as soon as possible, according to 
the principles of die Federal Constitution, to the enjoyment of 
all the rights, privileges and immunities of citizens of the 
United States." This, for one thing, expressly violated the Pres- 
ident's last-minute instructions. 

Embarrassing as these events and embroideries were, Living- 
ston and Monroe knew a fantastic bargain when they saw one, 
and promptly signed, Jefferson had written Livingston at the 


height of the negotiations that from the moment of French 
occupation of New Orleans <c we must marry ourselves to the 
British fleet and nation." Otherwise the little new country called 
the United States of America would be forever at the mercy of 
Napoleon Bonaparte. This above all burned in the back of 
Livingston's mind. 

The $15,000,000 was a total price approximately 80,000,000 
gold francs. Of this amount, 20,000,000 francs, or $3,750,000, 
were to go to American citizens to satisfy wartime claims 
against France. These claims were largely from merchants 
from Baltimore to Boston whose goods and ships had been 
subject to French spoliation and naval action before, during, 
and after the Revolutionary War. They were a highly sensitive 
issue along the Atlantic seaboard, and their settlement would 
help Jefferson sell his bill of goods when the astounding deal 
became known at home. 

News about the purchase reached America at the beginning 
of the summer of 1803. Jefferson was by turns pleased, shaken, 
shocked, amazed, and perturbed. The trans-Appalachian peo- 
ple were now assured a trade route and freedom of the River. 
But acquisition of new territory conflicted with the doctrine of 
strict construction of the Federal Constitution on which Jeffer- 
son and Marshall had locked horns from the day the third 
President had taken office, sworn in by this same antagonist. 

Jefferson did not hesitate. He immediately prepared an 
amendment to the Constitution to cover the matter. But, ap- 
prehension that Napoleon might change his fickle mind, plus 
pressure from the rising Western frontier, which now saw 
Jefferson as an incomparable hero, caused the Jeff ersonian party 
to give up amending the Constitution and swing Congress into 
special session. An "illegal" but prodigious achievement had 
been accomplished. Now it had to be justified. 

No President had yet taken a greater step on his own, and 
Jefferson knew it. The Louisiana Purchase would fittingly cli- 
max the diplomacy of the revolutionary period; Jefferson was 
acutely aware of its historical importance. While news of the 
Louisiana Purchase came as a distinct shock to the government 

Buys Louisiana On His Own 45 

at Washington, it also stirred many an American heart, Jef- 
ferson's included, by its imaginative greatness. 

Jefferson was certain he had no Constitutional authority to 
purchase territory, and republican discussion confirmed this 
view. 8 But the stakes were so grand that the President aban- 
doned his reservations. No mention was made of Constitutional 
anomaly in his message recommending Congressional approval. 
His party followed obediently the course he outlined. Liberal, 
broad construction of the Constitution something which John 
Marshall's logic had never been able to had been forced 
upon Jefferson and his followers by the bare fact of the 
Louisiana Purchase. 

Westerners in Washington closed ranks behind the Adminis- 
tration, happily approving what meant life itself for their 
constituents. Public approval everywhere was overwhelming 
as the news galloped across mountain and swamp and river, 
and this approval echoed back to Capitol Hill. The whole thing 
flamed the imagination. Americans everywhere could now 
envision a new nation from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from 
the Great Lakes to the Gulf, a world power in generations to 
come. 9 

When the Spanish had abrogated the Pinckney Treaty, they 
had closed the port of New Orleans to American trade through 
the simple method of removing the "privilege of deposit" at 
the mouth of the Mississippi. Privilege of deposit meant giving 
any citizen of the United States the right of depositing and re- 
exporting his property or goods duty free at the Spanish-held 
port of New Orleans. Suspension of this right of deposit had 
meant personal disaster to settlers along the Ohio, Missouri, 
and Mississippi rivers because, in the early nineteenth-century 
wilderness, water was the principal means of transporting 
goods. The entire valley of the Mississippi from bayou to great 

8. Leonard D. White, The Jeffersonians (New York, The Macmillan 
Company, 1951), p. 32- 

9. Ray Allen BiHington, Westward Expansion (New York, The Mac- 
millan Company, 1949), pp. 242-45; see also Edward Channing, A 
History of the U. S., Vol. IV (New York, The Macmillan Company, 
193S), p. 323- 


lake, from western Pennsylvania to the Dakotas, therefore, 
hailed the "Louisiana Procurement/' and spoke of Jefferson as 
a male Joan of Arc. 

The President summoned Congress on October 17, 1803, to 
special session. The Federalists hated Jefferson as they de- 
tested no one else in the short history of the country. But these 
were patriots, and the delicate point of Constitutional law was 
overwhelmed by actual possession. The fact was already ac- 
complished. This was a rationale. Louisiana already was 
American territory! 

Because they had long supported Marshall's view, the Fed- 
eralists could not oppose the Louisiana Purchase on grounds 
of strict construction. But they could and did oppose the 
Louisiana Purchase on grounds of their dislike for the "lordlings 
of the South," a natural regional distrust of long standing and 
by no means at an end even today. 

The treaty to be approved by the Senate provided for ulti- 
mate admission of ceded territory into the union "as a state or 
states" and this meant a lessening of influences of New England 
in government as well as the beginning of the end of tradi- 
tional domination of the Federalists in the halls of Congress. 

So the canny Federalists advanced a theory that, although 
under the Constitution territory could be annexed as a colony, 
admission of such a territory as a state would require a Con- 
stitutional amendment involving the consent of three-fourths 
of the states. 

When this proposition failed and the treaty seemed certain of 
approval, irreconcilable New Englanders led by Timothy 
Pickering and Roger Griswold, both of Massachusetts, advo- 
cated secession from the United States and the formation of 
a new union of New England states. But other Federalists like 
the Adamses, Fisher Ames, and George Cabot discouraged the 

Because of Federalist, especially New England, opposition, 
the Louisiana Purchase treaty was not approved simply by a 
voice vote. The final tally in the Senate on October 20 was 24 
to 7 to ratify the treaty strictly along party lines. The House 
gratuitously declared itself in favor of the Louisiana Purchase 

Buys Louisiana On His Own 47 

on October 25, by a vote of go to 25 also along party lines, 
even though it had no jurisdiction in the matter. 10 

But the Constitutional legality of the Louisiana Purchase re- 
mained questionable for many years until John Marshall came 
to Jefferson's moral rescue twenty years after Jefferson had 
retired to MonticeUo. France had had no clear title to sell 
Louisiana: it had been a Napoleonic aggression. Livingston 
and Monroe had bought what was legally nothing more than 
"a pretension." 11 Only by propinquity and power was the 
Louisiana Purchase finally made a fact, and not until Florida 
and the delta country had been swept clear of "foreigners," first 
French and Spanish, then the British in the War of 1812. This 
final act of "propinquity and power" was under the command of 
a Westerner named Andrew Jackson and it later made him 
President of the United States. 

Albert J. Beveridge's classic Life of John Marshall handles 
Jefferson's acts in the Louisiana procurement with something 
less than sympathy, but probably comes close to the heart of 
the material. 12 

The President had been amazed when the news reached 
him. He did not want Louisiana nothing was further from 
his mind than the purchase of it. The immorality of the 
acquisition affected him not at all; but the inconvenience 
did. He did not know what to do with Louisiana. Worse 
still, the treaty of cession required that the people living 
in that territory should be admitted into the Union, "accord- 
ing to the principles of the Federal Constitution." 

So, to his infinite disgust, Jefferson was forced to deal 
with the Louisiana Purchase by methods as vigorous as any 
ever advocated by the abhorred Hamilton methods more 
autocratic than those which, when done by others, he had 
savagely denounced as unconstitutional and destructive of 
liberty. The President doubted whether, under the Consti- 
tution, we could acquire, and was sure that we could not 
govern, Louisiana, and he actually prepared amendments 

10. Louis M. Hacker, The Shaping of the American Tradition, Vol. I 
(New York, Columbia University Press, 1947), pp. 320-22. 

11. Albert J. Beveridge, Life of John Marshall, Vol. Ill (Boston, ' 
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1929), pp. 146-51. 

12. Ibid. 


authorizing the incorporation into the republic of the pur- 
chased territory. No such legal mistiness dimmed the eyes of 
John Marshall who, in time, was to announce as the decision 
of the Supreme Court that the republic could acquire terri- 
tory with as much right as any monarchial government. 

To add to his perturbations, the high priest of popular 
rights found himself compelled to abandon his adored 
phrase, "the consent of the governed," upon which he had 
so carefully erected the structure of his popularity, and to 
drive through Congress a form of government over the peo- 
ple of Louisiana without consulting their wishes in the least. 

The Jeffersonian doctrine had been that the Union was 
merely a compact between sovereign States, and that new 
territory and alien peoples could not be added to it without 
the consent of all the partners. The Federalists took their 
stand upon this indefensible ground, and openly threatened 
the secession at which they had hinted when the Federal 
Judiciary Act was repealed. 

Jefferson was alive to the danger: * Whatever Congress 
shall think it necessary to do (about Louisiana)," he cau- 
tioned one of the republican House Leaders, "should be 
done with as little debate as possible." A month earlier he 
had written: 'The Constitution has made no provision for 
our holding foreign territory, still less for incorporating 
foreign nations into our Union. The Executive . . . have done 
an act beyond the Constitution." 

Therefore, he declared, "the less we say about constitu- 
tional difficulties respecting Louisiana the better. . . . What 
is necessary for surmounting them must be done sub silentis" 
The great radical favored publicity in affairs of state only 
when such a course was helpful to his political plans. On 
other occasions, no autocrat was ever more secretive than 
Thomas Jefferson. Seemingly, however, the President was 
concerned only with his influence on the destiny of the world. 

At first the Federalist leaders were too dazed to do more 
than grumble. "The cession of Louisiana ... is like selling 
us a ship after she is surrounded by a British Fleet," shrewdly 
observed George Cabot, when the news was published in 

Though the United States flag was raised over New Orleans 
December 20, 1803, the boundaries of the Louisiana Pur- 

Buys Louisiana On His Own 49 

chase weren't legally settled for years. The French had come to 
regard the Rio Grande and Iberville rivers as the east and west 
boundaries of Louisiana, but no such boundaries were set forth 
in the treaty. Indeed, Talleyrand had vaguely waved his arm 
and suggested that Livingston himself set them. As with so 
many facts of history, time, force, and propinquity answered 
the final questions. 

From the Louisiana Purchase, which increased the national 
domain by 140 per cent, were carved all or part of thirteen new 
states: Louisiana (which was admitted in 1812), Missouri 
(1821), Arkansas (1836), Iowa (1846), Minnesota (1858), 
Kansas (1861), Nebraska (1867), Colorado (1876), North 
Dakota (1889), South Dakota (1889), Montana (1889), 
Wyoming (1890), and Oklahoma (1907). 

The constitutionality of the procurement, settled in 1828, 
came about through a side issue, 13 often the way with Supreme 
Court decisions, in the case of the American Insurance Com- 
pany et al. v. David Canter. In his opinion, Justice Marshall 
ruled once and for all that the nation had the right, through 
implied powers of the Constitution wnich Jefierson had so 
bitterly contested, to acquire and govern territory. 

These were the facts in the historic case, which is Federally 
catalogued as i Peters 511, 1828: 

A ship with a cargo of cotton, which had been insured, was 
wrecked on the coast of Florida after that territory had been 
ceded to the United States and before it became a state of the 
Union. The cotton was saved and shipped to Key West where, 
by order of a local court acting under a territorial law, it was 
sold at auction to satisfy salvage claims. Part of the cotton was 
purchased by one David Canter, who shipped it to Charleston, 
where the insurance companies libeled it that is, filed a suit 
of complaint against it. The libelants contended that the 
Florida court was not competent to order the auction sale be- 
cause the territorial act was inconsistent with the national 

13. It is interesting and perhaps a bit ironical that this vindication 
by Marshall came two years after Jefferson's death. He died July 4, 
1826, a day which also saw the death of John Adams, his predecessor. 


In the U. S. Supreme Court, the question was: "Was the 
territorial act, under which the local court at Key West ordered 
the auction sale, valid?" 

The answer to the question depended, said Marshall, upon 
the relation in which Florida stood to the United States. Since 
the national government could make war and conclude treaties, 
it folowed that it "possesses the power of acquiring territory 
either by conquest or treaty ceded territory becomes a part 
of the nation to which it is annexed but the relations of the 
inhabitants to each other [do not] undergo any change." Their 
allegiance was simply transferred but the law "which reg- 
ulates the intercourse and general conduct of individuals 
remains in force until altered by the newly created power of 
the state." The treaty by which Spain ceded Florida to the 
United States assured to the people living in that territory 
"the enjoyment of the privileges, rights and immunities of 
U. S. citizens." In other words, the power to govern territory 
flows from the right to acquire it 

The Supreme Court of the United States held that, when the 
Federal government was expressly authorized in Articles I and 
II of the Constitution to make war and conclude treaties, it was 
there given all the powers necessary to carry out either of these 
functions. That is, in making war it could conquer and occupy 
enemy territory. In making treaties of peace, it could require 
the enemy to cede these conquered areas just as fully as it could 
require a payment of cash indemnity. The power to make war 
and peace therefore included the authority to do whatever 
was necessary and proper for war- and peacemaking. This was 
where, in Marshall's logic, the Federal government got the 
authority to acquire subject lands and peoples by implication, 
the vast Louisiana Purchase. 

Jefferson had been overwhelmingly re-elected in 1804 on his 
newly won popularity in the West, as well as with common, 
ordinary people everywhere, including those who were bound 
to emigrate beyond the Eastern mountains. Jefferson had been 
hailed as our first man of the people and was almost unani- 
mously a hero by the beginning of his second term. Yet, 
everything he had dreamed and imagined for his country by 

Buys Louisiana On His Own 51 

the amazing purchase of Louisiana Territory might have come 
to naught without John Marshall's liberal, broad interpretation 
of the Federal Constitution. 

In the end, however, President Jefferson was the man who 
took the responsibility for the purchase and who made it pos- 
sible. There could have been no judicial interpretation of an 
act without the act itself. In giving his representatives in Paris 
a free hand and his Presidential blessing, in immediately 
recognizing the greatness of the bargain and its glorious mean- 
ing to future Americans, our third President took a giant step, 
and shouldered the historical consequences, whatever they 
might be. Henceforth, the President of the United States would 
be in truth Chief Executive, a person of unprecedented power 
and leadership in a democratic society. Only a man of great 
gifts, of soaring imagination, of boundless faith in the ultimate 
wisdom of the common people, could have made such a 
terrible, yet wonderful decision. For this reason, with many 
others, Thomas Jefferson may well have been the most remark- 
able American. 

Andrew Jackson 

ON THE DAY of Ms inauguration, Andrew Jackson solemnly 
declared that Federal institutions would be better for 
having civil servants friendly to each incoming administration. 
He thus took his cue from William Learned Marcy, to whom 
is attributed the phrase "to the victors belong the spoils/' and 
established the spoils system which is now a tradition in most 
branches of American government, among them the Presidency. 
Since the time of Jackson, in fact, no democratic government 
has allowed as many majority partisan appointments as does 
ours, nor adhered so firmly to the principle that party members 
deserve to be rewarded simply because they have been on the 
winning team. 

For more than four decades after Jackson's term of office, 
dispensation of Federal patronage was strictly by party al- 
legiance, and the inevitable corruption, as well as inefficiency, 
bred in so partisan a system expanded until it reached stagger- 
ing proportions under President Grant Disappointed at the 
gross disorders in public office, the public demanded a civil 
service commission and began to get one in 1871; but civil 
service only modified the partisan chapter begun under Jack- 
son; it did not erase it completely. 

Andrew Jackson had been a backwoods child along the 
borderland of the Carolinas both states claim him where 
he found himself an orphan at the age of fourteen. Born only 
nine years before the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Jackson 


Invents the Spoils System 

nevertheless saw Revolutionary War service and was a prisoner 
of the British at Camden, South Carolina. 

Jackson's father had been an impoverished Scottish linen 
draper from Ulster County in Northern Ireland. He had come 
to the Carolinas and cleared the wilderness woods for a farm 
on which he died while Andrew was still in his mother's 
womb. 1 With Andrew's birth his mother became housekeeper 
to a brother-in-law. Andrew Jackson was, consequently, born 
in hardship, reared in poverty, dressed in linsey-woolsey, and 
rarely overate. Nervous and frail, sensitive and intelligent, 
Jackson might well have acquired his inferiority complex and 
quickness of temper and his awareness of slight from such 
difficult early circumstances. These also explain his lifelong 
feeling for the underdog and, probably, his restless ambition. 
Certainly they explain his feelings when willful political op- 
ponents slandered his guiltless wife Rachel, who loved sippin* 
whisky and a corncob pipe of an evening. 

The Revolutionary War not only gave Jackson early war 
service, but cost him the lives of two brothers and his mother, 
who died of prison fever while nursing patriots in Charleston. 
At fourteen, then, Andrew Jackson was a war veteran, an 
orphan, and the next thing to a neglected public charge. 

Politics quickly attracted Jackson, whose Scotch-Irish blood 

i. Allan Nevins and Henry Steele Commager, A Short History of the 
United States (New York, The Modern Library, 1945), pp. 170-72. 



pulled him that way and also made him a rough man in the 
infighting. He became a member of the Tennessee Con- 
stitutional Convention and in 1796 was elected the sole member 
from his state in the Federal House of Representatives. There 
he at once displayed two political characteristics he never lost: 
distrust of the rich, the well-bom, and all Easterners; and a 
profound love of the common man, the plain people with whom 
he sympathized heart and soul. 2 

Jackson's distrust of the East can possibly be explained by 
the fact that most of the merchants and bankers of his time 
lived either along the Atlantic seaboard or in New Orleans. 
They paid the producer of the goods in the frontier West 
precious little; more often than not a farmer received worth- 
less paper for his product and his sweat. This actually hap- 
pened to Jackson in 1798 when he bought $6,000 worth of 
goods in Philadelphia, selling Ms land to pay for the goods to 
a merchant whose notes went unhonored. Jackson was thus 
saddled with a huge debt, through no fault of his own, and 
never lost his understandable feeling that the East was made 
up of cheats and shysters. 

Early in life, Andrew married a woman about his own age 
by the name of Rachel Donelson Robards; married her, as it 
turned out, before she had secured a legal divorce from her 
first husband, Lewis Robards. Though Andrew's marriage 
ceremony was later repeated, his enemies made much of the 
circumstance and, in the end, the well-publicized scandal 
broke the man's heart. He bitterly blamed her early death on 
the mud and offal plastered on his marriage in the depraved 
political campaigns of 1824 and 1828. She was his one and 
only romantic friend; he loved her deeply to the day of his 
death, fifteen years before the Civil War. 

Rachel Robards had first laid eyes on Andrew Jackson when 
he knocked at the door of the Donelson stockade on the 
Cumberland River near Nashville. Roth were young, he an 
unmarried lawyer, she a married woman whose husband, Lewis 
Robards, drank more Kentucky corn liquor than was good for 
him and who had a habit of disappearing from time to time. 
z. Ibid. 

Invents the Spoils System 55 

When Robards failed to appear for a longer spell than usual 
and Rachel faced starvation, she had returned to her family 
home on the Cumberland. Robards eventually turned up again 
to sponge off her family, but kter disappeared into Kentucky. 

When Rachel, a sensuous, dark-haired young matron as yet 
unstirred by romantic love, first saw Andrew Jackson at the 
frontier stockade door she was probably taken with his bushy 
red hair, piercing blue eyes, an overly large mouth and power- 
ful chin, his enormous height, and thin but wiry strength. She 
told friends she thought he must be six and a half feet tall, at 
least three heads higher than herself. There was a vibrance 
about him, a radiance, a glow, a gentle honesty which quickly 
began to change her sleeping chemistry. There doesn't seem 
to be any doubt that it was for both strong physical attrac- 
tion at first sight. From the first, in fact, they were never 
very far apart until her tragic death on the eve of his inaugura- 

Jackson is said to have told her he had been living at inns 
in Nashville and was sick and tired of the brawling, the drink- 
ing, and the greasy food. He wanted a real home to go back to 
each night, and since her mother took in boarders occasionally 
( all frontier stockade women did there was almost nowhere 
else for a stranger to sleep), Jackson wondered aloud if he 
might stay with the Donelsons, a request that was readily and 
happily granted. 

After Jackson had taken up happy residence with the 
Donelsons, Lewis Robards returned from one of his drinking 
absences in Kentucky. Robards hated the Cumberland Valley 
and Nashville and made no bones about it, and by now he 
probably detested his marital responsibilities. Quickly he dis- 
appeared once more (he told Rachel he was going to Har- 
rodsburg, Kentucky, for a few days to see his sick mother) 
and Rachel never saw him again. Soon it became obvious to 
Nashville that he had deserted her and that their frontier 
marriage was finished. Jealous of Jackson, seldom sober, a 
bounder in every definition of the word, Robards persuaded a 
brother-in-law, one Jack Jouitt, to introduce a bill in the 
Virginia legislature to grant him a divorce from Rachel 


Donelson Robards on grounds of desertion and adultery. The 
corespondent named was Andrew Jackson. 

None of this information had been disclosed to Rachel until 
the legal procedure was a fait accompli. She had not been 
present to plead her case before the Virginia legislature; she 
had not even been aware of such a case. Her own feelings on 
hearing the news must have ranged from anger to consterna- 
tion, then to fear and relief, and back to anger at such an 
unmanly thing. Yet, since she had long known that her mar- 
riage was over, and doubtless had prayed it would legally end, 
there was nothing to do but accept the cards as they had been 
dealt. In frontier America in the last years of the eighteenth 
century no lone woman could have made the impossible wilder- 
ness-trek back to Virginia to tell her side of the divorce 
proceedings, even had she been aware of them or wished to halt 
them. Surely her family and the town of Nashville would 
understand she was better off this way, legally branded as 
she might be as an adulteress. 

In 1791, Jackson and Mrs. Robards took a trip down river to 
Natchez, Mississippi, where Jackson had wealthy friends. 
There they were married in the summer of 1791, believing that 
the legislature of Virginia had granted the jealous "Captain" 
Robards a legal divorce, though on fraudulent grounds. It was, 
unfortunately, later learned that the Virginia legislature had 
merely given Lewis Robards the right to file a suit for divorce, 
not a divorce itself. Frontier ignorance, Robard's carelessness, 
and the great distances involved had botched the situation. 
Jackson, himself a lawyer, should have been aware that a 
legislature normally could not dissolve a marriage but merely 
permit filing of a bill of divorcement 

Actually, therefore, Rachel had for two years been a bigamist 
when, in 1793, Lewis Robards got around to the legal act of 
final separation from her. When Rachel learned of this new 
disaster to her reputation she became extremely despondent 
and had to be given sedatives. Jackson, when he heard of it, 
immediately procured another license and saw that another 
ceremony was performed. But the barn door had been closed 

Invents the Spoils System 57 

too late. Rachel's reputation was ruined forever, and the de- 
famatory consequences in the presidential elections of 1824 
and 1828 led to her early death. 

There is no consummate evidence that Rachel was unfaithful 
or that Jackson was not acting in good faith and in the firm be- 
lief that a divorce had been granted to Rachel Robards when 
first they became man and wife. Soon after, Cumberland 
secured its freedom from North Carolina and became a legal 
territory of the Federal government; local events rose to such 
a pitch of excitement that local gossip seems not to have been 
published in permanent form, as it might have been in quieter 
years. We can only guess now; but knowing Jackson's qualities, 
his firm belief in right and wrong, goodness and sin, righteous- 
ness and iniquity, it is hard to believe that he and Rachel 
Donelson Robards knowingly shared a common-law affair 
between 1791 and 1793- 3 It simply wasn't in his strait-laced 
Scotch-Irish nature. 

Jackson's friends and supporters often went out of their way 
to record his sympathy and gentleness with children, which 
made his childless marriage all the more poignant. Thomas 
Hart Benton, the great Senator from the new West, never 
tired of relating how he arrived at Jackson's home one "wet, 
chilly evening, in February, and came upon him in the twilight, 
sitting alone before the fire, a lamb and a child between his 
knees" 4 

He started a little [Benton wrote], called a servant to 
remove the two innocents to another room, and explained 
to me how it was. The child had cried because the lamb was 
out in the cold, and begged him to bring it in which he 
had done to please the child, his adopted son, then not 
two years old. The ferocious man does not do that! and 

3. A delightful and accurate historical novel "by Irving Stone paints 
the tragic romance in far greater detail. Called The President's Lady 
(Garden City, Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1959), this fictional ac- 
count faithfully matches the known facts in the case and is most per- 
suasive of Rachel's innocence as well as Andrew Jackson's. 

4. John William Ward, Andrew Jackson: Symbol for an Age (New 
York, Oxford University Press, 1955), p. 197* 


though. Jackson had Ms passions and his violence, they were 
for men and enemies those who stood up against him 
and not for women and children, or the weak and helpless: 
for all of whom his feelings were those of protection and 

The child in Benton's story was, moreover, an Indian boy 
orphaned in one of Jackson's campaigns. It had been found 
by some Indian women who were about to kill it because its 
parents had died at the hands of white men. The Indian boy 
became Jackson's ward and grew up with the implausible name 
of Lincoyer. The story won the nation more than any of 
Jackson's victories had done, reflecting, as a contemporary 
said, "more honour on the heart of the General than the entire 
glory of the Creek War." This was the child Senator Benton 
had seen lying down with the lamb between Jackson's knees, 
dismissed embarrassedly from the room by the General. 

Rachel's favorite sister, Jane Hays, wrote at presidential 
election time with nostalgia for their early Cumberland 
stockade home and their good times together; 

How does my dear Sister Jackson? I cannot take up my 
bonnet and meet you at Sister Betsy's or Sister Mary's . . . 
to smoke our pipes, laugh and talk over occurrences of 
former days, each one taking the words out of the other's 
mouth. ... It was a pleasant neighborhood, . . . You will 
regret leaving it Sister Jackson, and your fine farm and 
comfortable house, for the City of Washington. . . . 

Rachel Jackson couldn't have agreed more with her favorite 
Sister Hays. Indeed she never lived to experience life in the 
White House, only uncivilized and unceasing slander. Divorce 
was bad enough in those days. But to have married a sup- 
posedly divorced woman only to find she was a legal adulteress 
was to give Jackson's opponents a gratuitous political weapon 
with both edges indecently honed. The issue had first been 
raised in the lost campaign of 1824 when Henry Clay and 
John Quincy Adams had managed to deprive Jackson of the 
Presidency through their so-called "corrupt bargain." Clay's 

Invents the Spoils System 59 

votes had been swung to Adams when there had been found to 
be no clear majority in the electoral college, though Jackson 
was high man and undoubtedly the choice of the electorate. 

From the "Raleigh Register'' of October 12, 1824, had come 
the following political statement regarding Rachel Jackson's 
virtue: 5 "I make a solemn appeal to the reflecting part of the 
community, and beg of them to think and ponder well before 
they place their tickets in the box, how they can justify it to 
themselves and posterity to place such a woman as Mrs. 
Jackson at the head of the female society of the United States." 

When the shadow of Andrew Jackson's courtship threatened 
the forthcoming campaign of 1828 and the common man with 
it, a testy Jackson wrote to Sam Houston in his own inimitable 
spelling: 6 "I have lately got an intimation of some of his 
[Clay's] secrete movements which if I can reach with possitive 
and responsible proof I will wield to his political and perhaps 
his actual destruction, he is certainly the bases [t], meanest 
scoundrel that ever disgraced the image of his god. . . . Even 
the aged and virtuous female is not free from his . . . slander 
but anough, you know me. I know how to defend her.' 9 

Sam Houston did indeed know his patron, how Jackson had 
in the past defended his wife's virtuous name in a duel or two, 
for Houston had trained for a recent duel of his own on the 
Hermitage grounds under General Jackson's experienced eye. 
He knew that any hint of adultery regarding Mrs. Jackson 
meant a challenge in that flamboyant era. Duels were fought 
by men of honor to maintain honor, a very precious commodity 

The next person to attack poor Rachel was Charles Ham- 
mond, editor of the Cincinnati Gazette and a staunch con- 
servative. Wrote Hammond: 7 <c Gen. Jackson prevailed upon the 
wife of Lewis Roberts [sic] to desert her husband and live with 

5. Marquis James, Andrew Jackson, Portrait of a President (Indian- 
apolis, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1940), p. 93. 

6. Jackson to Sam Houston, December 15, 1826, Correspondence HI, 


7. James, op. tit., p. 155. 


Then followed a lurid account of the divorce on the shady 
testimony of a man named McGary who had loosely used the 
word adultery in the proceedings many years before, ignoring 
the years the Jacksons had supposed themselves to have been 
legally married. 

But it remained for Adams's conservative mouthpiece, the 
National Journal, to reprint nationally a disreputable handbill 
written by a candidate for Congress from Jackson's area in 
Tennessee, one Thomas D. Arnold, proclaiming that Andrew 
Jackson had spent the principal part of his life "in gambling, 
in cock-fighting, in horse-racing . . . and to cap all tore from 
a husband the wife of his bosom." 

This now made it official and the country knew the tale. The 
libel went on: "General Jackson admitted that he boarded at 
the house of old Mrs. Donelson, and that Roberts [sic] became 
jealous of him but he omits the cause of that jealousy . . . 
[namely] that one day Roberts surprised General Jackson 
and Ms wife exchanging most delicious kisses. . . /' 

The candidate for Congress from Tennessee admitted that 
in this case Roberts (Robards) acted a coward's part in that 
lie failed to shoot Jackson dead in his tracks. Later, according 
to Adams's stalwart journal, Jackson neglected to tell that on 
the voyage to Natchez lie and Rachel "slept under the same 
blanket" 8 

One can well imagine the shock with which such printed 
words must have struck bluestocking Back Bay of the early 
iSoos. Having the unprintable suggested about a presidential 
candidate (and believed as gospel because it appeared in the 
official Adams journal) damned his political career forever. 

Hammond followed with fresh editorial comment in Cincin- 
nati: 9 "Ought a convicted adulteress and her paramour husband 
to be placed in the highest offices of this free and Christian 

Old Hickory by now was fighting to control himself: 10 "How 

8. Tennessee State Library, Nashville, quoting a broadside by Thomas 
B. Arnold, May 24, 1824. > 

9. James, op. cit, p. 156. 

10. Jackson to General John Coffee, June 2, 1828, Correspondence 
HI, 409. 

Invents the Spoils System 61 

hard it is to keep the cowhide from these villains. I have made 
many sacrifices for my country but being unable ... to punish 
these slanders of Mrs. J. is a sacrifice too great to be well 

But Jaclcson had put himself in an impossibly frustrating 
position by accepting the candidacy of President of the United 
States: an aspirant to the Presidency could no longer fight 
duels. Burr's fate had proved it politically, if morals and com- 
mon sense had not. Clay had been close enough to Hammond 
in Cincinnati to have suppressed the slanders had he wished 
to do so. Despite his virtuous disclaimers, Clay, the presidential 
candidate who had made the "corrupt bargain" with Adams 
and had been paid off as Secretary of State, knew what his 
man Hammond was about and gave silent consent to the 
slanders; there is little doubt of it as one looks back through 
the records. 

As for Jackson, he believed to the hour of his death that 
Secretary of State Clay and President Adams were thoroughly 
guilty of the whole disgusting libel. (It was not by chance 
that, when his own two-term Presidency was over, Jackson 
declared that his two regrets were ( i ) that he had been unable 
to shoot Henry Clay, and (2) hang John C. Calhoun, the high 
priest of nullification.) Jackson was of a very different moral 
stripe, an instinctive cavalier, a man who felt, like some 
medieval knight, that women were pure and sacred and 
shouldn't be brought into the political arena. When a gazette 
friendly to Jackson came up with a fabrication attributing to 
Mr. and Mrs. Adams premarital relations similar to those 
alleged against the Jacksons, Jackson hastily wrote the editor 
that "female character should never be introduced,'* except by 
way of just legal retaliation on the known guilty. In the free- 
style personal campaigning of those days, Jackson's shining 
chivalry had few if any parallels. 

But Jackson had always been such a gallant knight. His 
supporters pointed to the way he had defended the beauty of 
New Orleans womanhood from the savage lust of British 
soldiery. A Jacksonian partisan asked, during the height of 
the slanders against Rachel Jackson, how any man who 


had behaved as Jackson had in New Orleans could feel other 
than noble about the women of America: 11 

And you, too, my fair and beloved countrywomen whose 
first honour is in the gentleness of your nature, will you not 
unite your sympathies and tears over the grave of that man, 
who, above all others, was the most devoted friend and 
admirer, might I not say romantic, that woman ever had? 

Who so prompt to defend and protect her rights, or guard 
her from injury and insult? 

Who ever cherished or exalted more the purity of the 
domestic and social virtues, so infinitely more important to 
human happiness than all others? Whose valour was it that 
protected our mothers, and wifes, and daughters, from the 
savage tomahawk, and a licentious soldiery, and one of our 
finest cities, with its "beauty and booty" from ruthless in- 

Whose, but Andrew Jackson's? 

Jackson's love of Rachel and his emotional tie with her long 
after her death were both pronounced and unconcealable. A 
visitor to the White House soon after inauguration found 
Jackson crying in his upstairs room: 12 "He was sitting at the 
Hide table with his wife's miniature before him, propped up 
against some books; and between him and the picture lay an 
open book, which bore the marks of long use. This book, I 
afterward learned, was her prayer book/' 

The tragedy of Jackson's marital situation is by no means 
irrelevant to the story of his invention of the spoils system. 
Indeed, it seems to have been a fundamental cause of his 
feelings which stewed in morose anger, then cooled in retribu- 
tion and consequent acts as he took the highest office in the 
land. For his beloved Rachel died at Christmastide, 1828, soon 
after his election to the Presidency and before his lonely 
inaugural in March, 1829. He forever attributed her death 
to her slanderers, and Jackson publicly called Clay and Adams 
lier murderers. The most natural reaction in the world was, 
then, for the new President of the United States to throw out of 

11. Ward, op. cit., p. 194. 

12. Nicholas Trist, quoted ibid., p. 197. 

Invents the Spoils System 63 

office every vestige of Clay-Adamsism, every appointee, every 
scent of what was emotionally to him a heap of indescribable 
filth, and undemocratic filth to boot. 

Rachel Jackson's maligning and her subsequent death were, 
above all others, debts her husband never forgot or forgave. 13 
Marquis James points out that in the end these slanders appear 
to have gained the Adams Administration and re-election 
campaign no advantage with the electorate: such assaults 
seldom do. The end result was only to "lay waste to the joy of 
a life, desolating a pious woman whose fortune had been in 
youth to be beautiful, to marry a bounder, and, existence with 
him becoming intolerable, to win the heart of Andrew Jackson." 

The plan had been to leave Kachel in Tennessee until the 
inaugural was over and the new administration under way. 
This wasn't Andrew Jackson's idea, but Rachel's, and seconded 
heartily by Jackson's high political command. Though the 
campaign tempest had ceased, Rachel's reappearance among 
the ladies of social Washington might well have set it off again, 
and a fretful Rachel knew it when she wrote a letter from 
Nashville in December of 1828: "I assure you I had rather be 
a doorkepper [sic] in the house of God than to live in that 
Palace at Washington." She kept repeating this phrase in other 
letters and also by mouth to her maid, Hannah. 14 

Suddenly, as Christmas neared, Rachel fell ill with one of 
those unknown and unmitigated Western fevers common to 
early winter of that time. Bleed her as they would, the 
physicians could not seem to revive her health. A few hours 
before she died she asked the maid Hannah to help her to the 
chair by the fire and fill her pipe with tobacco (another per- 
sonal problem to Washington society), whereupon she said 
to Hannah twice over: "I had rather be a doorkepper in the 
house of God than to live in that Palace." The following day, 
December 23, 1828, Rachel Donelson Robards Jackson died, 
her long flight from fame mercifully over. 15 

Andrew Jackson and she had been inseparable man and wife 

13. James, op. cit. y p. 158. 

14. Ibid. 

15. Ibid. 


for thirty-seven years, and from the first he had defended 
against all men both her virtue and her pipe-smoking. 
Witnesses to the Tennessee funeral wrote afterward that they 
wished those who had hastened this mournful scene by their 
relentless gossip on an unoffending woman could have been 
brought to view this "saddest spectacle that any present had 
ever beheld." 16 

At the end of the funeral service President-elect Jackson 
said aloud: "In the presence of this dear saint I can and do 
forgive all my enemies. But those vile wretches who have 
slandered her must look to God for mercy/' In such black 
Gaelic despair, the new President left Tennessee for Wash- 
ington to organize the first true administration of the common 
man. Is it any wonder that he clearly and distinctly understood 
William Learned Marcy when the latter declared "to the 
victors belong the spoils/' or that he adopted the principle as 
his own? 

Four years earlier, Jackson had polled the greatest number 
of popular votes, almost as many as the rest put together, yet 
had failed to reach a clear majority in the electoral college. 
When he heard that Candidate Clay was seeing Candidate 
Adams he had surmised that "bargains and sales are going on in 
the monstrous union between Clay and Adams/' He was en- 
tirely right, for Adams took thirteen states, Jackson seven, and 
Crawford four in the run-off House vote, with states voting as 
units. Later, when John Quincy Adams was safely President, 
certain Adams men had wanted Clay to withdraw his "corrupt 
bargain" and make a generous gift of his great service to Adams. 
But Clay, with outward reluctance, had accepted the post of 
Secretary of State, then traditionally third in line for the 
Presidency should both President and Vice-President die in 
office. By now, however, the election of 1828 had wiped away 
this old debt. Jackson had won landslide endorsement by 178 
to 83 in the electoral college and 647,286 to 508,064 in popular 
vote. Adams had, of course, scored heavily in New England 
but nowhere else, while Old Hickory's support was by now 
widely diffused and his enormous popularity with the average 

16. Ibid,, pp. 128-29. 

Invents the Spoils System 65 

man, "the common man," was similar to Franldin D. Roosevelt's 
just over a century later. 

So Jackson was coming to power stimulated by better than 
two-to-one electoral endorsement and provoked to the kind of 
revenge that only a Scotch-Irish soldier with a trigger temper, 
a keen sense of right and wrong, as well as strong partisanship 
for the average man (together with a memory for personal 
hurts ) could bring to the Presidency. 

Perhaps it wasn't by chance that Mr. Justice Joseph Story of 
the Supreme Court, who had wanted Chief Justice Marshall's 
place when Marshall was succeeded by Taney, later wrote of 
the Jacksonian democracy: "Though we live under the form 
of a republic we are in fact under the absolute rule of a single 
man." 17 

There was, of course, far more in Jackson's background than 
pique, hurt, the slander of his wife, and a prodigious memory 
for slights to make him become what he did as President and 
to espouse the partisan spoils system. The common men who 
rallied behind Jackson were disappointed with aristocrats as 
Presidents, men with bloodline, money, and estate. The little 
people of a growing country, particularly the expanding West, 
were demanding more equal distribution of wealth and greater 
responsibility in government Newly enfranchised masses, espe- 
cially the foreign-born lately fled from European monarchies 
and traditional, despotic family power, needed men in office 
who more accurately represented themselves. 
^Jackson came from the West, the first President beyond the 
Eastern mountains. Up to now, all Presidents had been from 
Virginia or Massachusetts. Washington had come as a Virginia 

17. Jefferson had said that in Cabinet meetings all grave and impor- 
tant matters would be put to a vote "the President counting himself 
but one.** Jefferson had soon repudiated this, of course, since he alone 
was faced with the consequences of any Cabinet vote. Jackson listened 
to his Cabinet, then decided for himself, on grounds that he was the 
Chief Executive and must make any final decision. That was Jackson's 
bent to do it himself, on his own, and take whatever consequences 
arose. Lincoln later found Cabinet meetings so useless he often stayed 
away from them. A story went about Washington in Lincoln's day that 
in a Cabinet meeting Lincoln asked for a vote, then said: "Ayes one, 
Noes seven. The Ayes have it/* 


gentleman, John Adams a Boston Brahmin, Jefferson a 
Virginian of wealth and aristocracy despite his political phi- 
losophy, Madison and Monroe also Virginians of good family, 
and John Quincy Adams an aristocrat to his dainty Mas- 
sachusetts finger tips. But Jackson was a man who had lived 
on the Western side of the Alleghenies and was, therefore, the 
common man's first indigenous mouthpiece. Not being en- 
dowed as all his predecessors had been, he had had to work 
hard for a meager living. 

Old Hickory, the people's candidate, had had the endorse- 
ment of the Workingman's Party in Philadelphia and was also 
the hero of the Western farmer. 18 He had had overwhelming 
support in the South, which was largely antiurban in make-up 
and prejudice. Champion of what John Adams sneeringly called 
"the common people," Jackson personified a new democracy; 
he was the hero of the "mob" and the "rabble." It was not 
without purpose that he called his political party Democrats, 
which label has stuck to this day to his political legatees. For 
four long years since 1824, Jackson had been able (partly 
because the Tennessee legislature had formally endorsed him 
as a presidential candidate) to retire West to campaign, 
organize, and prepare for 1828. When 1828 had come he was 
ready, and so were the votes. 

One reason Jacksonian votes were readier in 1828 than they 
had ever been was the sudden mushrooming of suffrage. Homer 
Carey Hockett, in Political and Social Growth of the American 
People, 1 points out that the stark, crude, self-reliant back- 
woodsmen of the new Western commonwealth beyond the 
Alleghenies had written into their young state constitutions 
the democratic codes of the frontier. One of these codes was 
enfranchisement of the masses, a rare item in the East. 

In early Colonial times voting had been for the most part 
restricted to white natives who owned property. 20 In many of 
the Thirteen Colonies a man not only had to own property to 

18. Stefan Lorant, The Presidency ( New York, The Macmillan Com- 
pany, 1951), p. 108. 

19. Homer Carey Hockett, Political and Social Growth of the Ameri- 
can People (New York, The Macmillan Company, 1946), pp. 524-34. 

20. Revolutionary Sources, Pequot Library, Southport, Connecticut. 

Invents the Spoils System 67 

vote, but he might have to pass other economic and social 
requirements as well. In still other areas he was barred if he 
had immigrated; religion was a barrier in some areas; race 
and color are subtle barriers even now in the South. 

Mr. Hockett wisely points out that enfranchisement of 
whole layers of new white male voters in the West put pressure 
on the older Eastern states to widen their suffrage too. 21 The 
trend had been gradually gathering force before Jackson first 
ran for the Presidency in 1824. When Jackson's common man 
was defrauded in the Adams-Clay "corrupt bargain** of 18524, 
a revolution in Eastern suffrage was inevitable. And, instinc- 
tively, the new voters of the old states turned to Jackson as a 
man of the people in preference to the trained statesmen of 
the old school an aristocracy somehow responsible for the 
double cross of democracy in 1824. Politicians did not take 
long to follow suit, flocking to Jackson's support between 1824 
and 1828 as bees to buckwheat Hockett adds: 

The broadening of the suffrage throughout the Union en- 
franchised thousands of men who had previously been sheer 
outsiders in the management of government. Many were 
undeveloped, untrained in political thinking, apt to follow 
a magnetic leader irrespective of the policies he advocated. 
White manhood suffrage introduced a new and incalculable 
factor into conduct of public affairs. 

The crowds that merged in Washington for Jackson's 
inaugural were beyond anything the aristocrat-led Republic 
had yet imagined. Daniel Webster said he had never seen 
such a mob before: "Persons have come from five hundred 
miles to see General Jackson, and they really seem to thinlc that 
the country has been rescued from some dreadful danger." 

Jackson was staying at Gadsby's, a Washington hostelry over- 
flowing with muddy-booted supporters who roamed the hotel 
rooms, shook the President-elect's hand, and awaited their 

Jackson was a weary figure, in full mourning for his Rachel, 
his whitening hair carelessly disarranged, but still looking, to 

21. Hockett, op. cit., pp. 524-34. 


a British visitor, Tike a gentleman and a soldier if a sad one." 
The new President would not allow Henry Clay in his presence, 
refused to make a courtesy call on the outgoing Adams, and 
had to be notified by messenger that the White House would 
be ready for his occupancy on March 4. Adams wrote in his 
own diary (he meticulously kept each hour) that Jackson 
eventually requested Adams to put himself to no inconvenience 
and stay as many days beyond March 4 as the Adams family 
needed for unhurried packing. Later, however, Jackson ap- 
parently feared for the safety of his followers and also the 
safety of Gadsby's s because of the incredible crush of "com- 
mon" people there, and he asked Adams if he might go to the 
White House immediately after the inauguration. Adams left 
on March 3, refusing to be present at the public triumph of 
Rachel Donelson Robards Jackson's churlish husband. 

In The Age of Jackson, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., reports a 
local source which boasted that the Washington of those days 
possessed almost a hundred thousand bricks in pavement in an 
age of generally unpaved road. But whatever bricks there 
were soon got inundated by the mud of January, February, 
and early March, i82g. 22 Justice Story termed the Jacksonian 
throng "King Mob," but others called it "King Mud." What- 
ever its name, it brought much of this sticky debris unhealthily 
inside the taverns and hostelries, which made a fortune out of 
the great bloodless revolution and those who came to drink to 
it. Eggnog and timber doodles, juleps and slings, sherry 
cobblers and great drafts of green ale went coursing down 
throats to ward off winter ills and the effects of King Mud, and 
to toast the common man who would now be truly king. 

Others went to hear and see George Washington Dixon 
sing in blackface (he would one day popularize "OF Zip Coon" 
as he plunked on a discolored banjo and rolled his white man's 
eyes for all minstrelsy to imitate). Still others went to see 
Thomas Jefferson's library which was being placed on public 
exhibition before being auctioned to pay the debts of Jeffer- 
son's recent estate. Those who lived nearby or who preferred 

22. Arthur M. ScHesinger, Jr., The Age of Jackson (Boston, Little, 
Brown and Company, 1945), pp. 4-6. 

Invents the Spoils System 69 

to stay at home had the notorious Peggy O'Neale Eaton to 
gossip about in whispers over tea. Speaking of promiscuous 
Peggy, one New York Congressman wrote Governor Van 

Buren in New York about "using a certain household 

and then putting it on one's head." 23 The Congressman's 
omission was undoubtedly "chamber pot >? 

Besides gossiping and drinking, the political society of that 
March inauguration also gave serious attention to eating. 
When Congressmen and Senators (and their hangers-on) sat 
down to dinner, they began late in the afternoon and continued 
a very long time. If the menus left for us can be believed, in 
succession were regularly put down a heavy meat soup, a fish 
course, turkey, beef smothered in onions, a rack of mutton, 
ham, pheasant, that jolly new dish "ice cream," jelly, fruit, and 
a generous flowing of brown and pale sherry, madeira, and 
champagne. Sometimes the diners toasted the crotchety hero 
of New Orleans, sometimes the tiny outgoing President, but 
more often they drank in quaking hope that the Republic 
would somehow survive the cataclysm that had broken open 
the past. Daniel Webster said of it all: "My fear is stronger 
than my hope." 

As they saw the people's President calmly sworn in, black 
cravat and a plain black suit setting off flowing white hair and 
a lined, weathered face, the inauguration crowd could scarcely 
have believed Tory rumors which were greeting the tardy 
new Secretary of State, Martin Van Buren. These rumors 
stemmed from John Quincy Adams and his believers who had 
it that the new administration was feeble unto anarchy and 
Van Buren had best flee back to Albany and have nothing to 
do with a political toboggan hell-bent for disaster and destruc- 
tion. The prolific Adams journal did nothing to deny this possi- 
bility. 24 

23. Ibid. 

24. It is intriguing to read in the fascinating daily memoirs of John 
Quincy Adams that, among other things, Adams had heard that Martin 
Van Buren was the illegitimate son of Aaron Burr. It may also be worth 
noting that when Van Buren presided over the Senate as Vice-President 
under Jackson he had so many political enemies he found it necessary 
to place a brace of pistols on his desk. 


The American Daily Advertiser reports Jackson's inaugural 
at the Capitol in tie glowing words o one long and giddy 
sentence: 25 

The scene was a most beautiful and inspiring spectacle: The 
building., noble in its size, with its richly sculptured capitals 
and cornices, and the fine group in the pediment; the massy 
columns (one for each State in the Union); the far-spread- 
ing wings and terraces; the grounds and gates, with the 
crowd of carriages without; the line of soldiers in the park; 
the towering flight of steps, covered with members of 
Congress, officers of the army, foreign ministers, ladies 
dressed in aU the varying hues of fashion; the President; the 
crowd of heads and of innumerable eyes bent on one spot, all 
taken together presented to the outward eye an assemblage 
of images never to be forgotten. 

One eyewitness of democracy's first genuine swearing-in was 
a remarkable woman named Mrs. Anne Roy all who had been 
defrauded of her widow's fortune at fifty-four and had taken to 
writing to keep body and soul together. Happily for posterity, 
Mrs. Royall was present and alert when Jackson was sworn in 
by the venerable Chief Justice John Marshall, who must have 
had misgivings at least equal to those he had had in swearing 
in Jefferson. She leaves us this crystal-clear picture of the 
people's President: 26 

He was dressed in a blue frock coat, with epaulets, a com- 
mon hat with a black cockade, and a sword by his side. He 
is very tall and slender. . . . His person is finely shaped, and 
his features not handsome but strikingly bold and deter- 
mined. He is very easy and affable in his manners, and loves 
a jest. He told one of our party he was "one of the blue hen's 
chickens." He appears about 50 years of age [he was actually 
61]. There is a great deal of dignity about him. He related 
many hardships endured by his men, in the Army, but never 
breathed a word of his own. His language is pure and fluent, 
and he has the appearance of having kept the best of com- 

25. Lorant, op. cit. 9 p. 111. 

26. Warren S. Tyron, ed., A Mirror for Americans (Chicago, The 
University of Chicago Press, 1952 ) , p. 55. 

Invents the Spoils System 71 

Mrs. Royall's last phrase undoubtedly refers to aristocratic 
rumors of the time that Jackson was a murderer (he had Icilled 
in duels and in war), a gamhler (he had played high-low in 
Natchez), a drinker (he and Rachel had been known to drink 
sippin* whisky together of an evening), a bounder (after all, he 
had been married for four decades to what Boston considered 
a scarlet woman), and a no-good, illiterate Western thief (he 
had stolen the Presidency from the wellborn and the tra- 
ditional, and had sworn he was about to steal their patronage, 
too). Perhaps Mrs, Roy all wished with reason to place on 
historical record his appearance of having "kept the best of 
company" as an antidote to gossip. 

The new President had walked to The Hill from Gadsby's. 
After the swearing-in, he mounted his horse and rode down 
Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, "that Palace at 
Washington" which the dying Rachel had so abhorred. He was 
pursued by a multitude. It was unruly. It was noisy. It was 
a mob, some on horseback, many roaring with the strength of 
their whisky, all of them shouting and some even shooting into 
the air and emitting Indian whoops. As Jackson rode through 
the White House gates the mob surged after him, a sight with- 
out precedent, so horrifying that when Rostonians later heard 
of it they shuttered their windows. 

Filthy country boots common boots caked with mud and 
manure climbed upon damask and velvet, their owners yelling 
and screaming to colored White House servants bearing great 
trays of drinks, which went swilling down throats as fast as they 

Justice Story reported: *1 never saw such a mixture. The 
reign of King Mob seemed triumphant. 9 * To other guests the 
sight was reminiscent of the Tuileries and Versailles in bloody, 
revolting France. 

Here was the corpulent epicure, grunting and sweating for 
breath the dandy wishing he had no toes the tight-laced 
miss, fearing her person might receive some permanently de- 
forming impulse. Several thousands of dollars* worth of art 
glass and china were broken in the attempt to get at the 
refreshments; punch, lemonade, and other articles were car- 


ried out of the White House in buckets and pails; women 

fainted; men were seen with bloody noses; and no police had 

been placed on duty. 27 

The President himself was in real physical danger, just as he 
had been at Gadsby's. Friends formed a cordon about him, 
attempting without too much success to protect him from well- 
wishers and office seekers. Completely worn out from the diffi- 
culties of the day and probably as much disgusted, the new 
President sank into a 'listless state of exhaustion" and ducked 
out a back exit, returning to Gadsby's, where he went to bed. 
The party soon burst White House seams and was not over 
when daylight struck the bottle- and body-strewn executive 
palace yard that President Adams had kept so neat 

John Quincy Adams had not heard the jubilant voice and 
full-throated whisky roar of "the common people" he patron- 
ized. Like his father before him, he had already left the town 
and the ill-matched mob he now utterly detested. The suc- 
cessor's name this time was Jackson, not Jefferson. What John 
Quincy Adams, a poor President, did not know on the dusty 
road home that historic night was that the noblest part of his 
long and devoted public life was yet to come. As a member 
of Congress from Massachusetts he would return in 1831 to 
remain in the House until he died on its floor in 1848, a 
valiant attacker of slavery, a persistent opponent of gag rules, 
and a devout scientist who helped create the Smithsonian 

No American, however partisan to the democratic cause, 
should overlook the elemental fact that John Quincy Adams 
and Andrew Jackson, close contemporaries, lived on what 
might as well have been different planets. Conservative families 
like the Adamses could be as patriotically democratic as 
the lowliest republican cobbler, yet they were, more often 
than not, highborn gentlefolk whose daily routine was far re- 
moved from the do-it-yourself frontier. They had servants, 
they had leisure and deportment, they were educated, they 
were endowed, they were "society" the aristocrats who, under 
another political system, would have been America's lords, 

27. Lorant, op. cit., p. 113. 

Invents the Spoils System 73 

dukes, earls, and royalty. For all their patriotism and no 
American family has a prouder patriotic record the two 
President Adamses, father and son, simply and plainly dis- 
trusted men like Andrew Jackson, even hated them. They were 
intellectually willing 28 to give the Jacksons of America equal- 
ity and freedom under the revered Constitution, which they 
had helped create, yet were practically unable as yet to call 
the underprivileged of America their brothers. 

Jackson was the people's President and the President of the 
new West: this was to be a splendid transfusion for the blood- 
stream of a growing nation. But Jackson shared many faults 
as well as virtues of the frontier and the lowly born of that 
rough-living era. He was intolerant and half-educated, and 
what he did not know he pooh-poohed as rubbish. Like a 
modern public school graduate who scoffs at private schools 
as vaguely "un-American," overlooking the good and patroniz- 
ing the "egghead," frontier Americans blanketed the educated, 
wealthy upper classes with intolerant hatred and distrust not 
quite erased to this day. 

The new President's first act was to express an ardent desire 
to free the Federal civil service of incompetence and corrup- 
tion. Men appointed by Washington, John Adams, and Jeffer- 
son still held office, not to mention "corrupt bargain" 
appointees of the loathed John Quincy Adams. Of corruption 
Jackson did not find overmuch for it wasn't a corrupt era, but 
rather new and sparkling and crusading; even so, whatever it 
was, there was very little money to steal. Of incompetence 
Jackson found more than he had feared. Most post office and 
other civil service employees had been at the public trough 
for a quarter of a century and firmly believed by now that 
their Federal appointments had been for life. 

As Jackson began his Herculean sweeping, one clerk in the 
Auditor's office skshed his own throat from ear to ear, an- 
other in the Department of State went mad. Still others franti- 
cally wrote to homes they had long since forgotten, begging 

28. To Bis dying day, old Jofoa Adams was believed to be opposed to 
universal manhood suffrage, though. John Quincy, Ms son, was less rigid 
in the matter. 


employment of any sort, though they liad not been sacked 
nor knew for certain they would be. 2 ^ Whether a man was well 
suited to a Federal job didn't matter much to Jackson. What 
mattered was that the man had supported him, cherished his 
cause, and had detested John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay. 
Jackson rather oversimplified the requirements of civil service 
in his rationale: 'The duties of all public offices are so plain 
and simple that men may readily qualify themselves for their 

Nevertheless, being an old soldier himself, Jackson was 
always sympathetic to veterans. An aged postmaster in Albany 
was about to be sacked; Jackson pounded his fist on the White 
House table with, "By the Eternal! I will not remove the old 
man. He carries a pound of British lead in his body!" Any 
veteran who had lost a leg on the battlefield, even one who had 
openly supported Clay or Adams, could therefore be safe from 
dismissal. Jackson said to his patronage officer: "If he lost a leg 
fighting for Ms country, that is vote enough for me!" As was to 
be expected from his blood, background, and impetuous, emo- 
tional nature, Andrew Jackson was almost childlike in his de- 
fense of men who had served their country in war. They could 
do no wrong. 

Jackson was also the first President to realize the importance 
of being on cordial terms with the newspapermen of the 
country. Fifty-six editors of influential papers were appointed 
to office under Jackson. No doubt they were of powerful 
assistance to him in securing wide publicity and popular sup- 
port for his policies, as well as interpreting public opinion at 
the grass roots and passing it along to the White House. 

Under earlier Presidents, public officials had ordinarily con- 
tinued their tenure during good behavior. This was a sort of 
unwritten civil service, patterned on the royal courts of Europe 
where most government officials stayed on the public pay 
roll until the king died and a new set of sycophants or flunkies 
were selected to dance attendance, even if they had to neglect 
their sworn duties to do so. Jackson's first appointments were 
taken, without exception, from members of his own political 

2Q. Records of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston. 

Invents the Spoils System 75 

faction and he promptly filled all vacancies in the Federal 
honeycomb with none but Jacksonian partisans. 

The triumph of democratic dynamism under Jackson paved 
the path for the nationalization of the spoils system, long 
established inside state and local American government. For 
the first time, there was now no official government aristocracy 
created largely from the wellborn, the educated, and the en- 
dowed. The very concept was repugnant to the common man 
who had backed Jackson and whose idea of Tory aristocrats 
frankly approximated blueblooded courtiers of Whitehall and 
the Tuileries. 

Besides, it is clear Andrew Jackson himself felt that the 
newly enfranchised masses should be given a chance for 
training in the practical conduct of public affairs. As Franklin 
P. Adams said it so perfectly a century later, the average 
man was, to Jackson, "above average" and could be taught to 
govern himself. If a man believed in democracy at all, he 
believed that. 

Was Jackson's "spoils system'' as drastic as old histories 
would have us think? Undoubtedly not. Arthur M. Schlesinger, 
Jr., foremost modern authority on Jackson, has stated that tra- 
dition considerably exaggerates the extent of Jackson's actual 
removals. 30 Schlesinger estimates that modern research cuts 
down Jackson's dismissals during eight years to approximately 
one fifth to one tenth of all Federal officeholders, "many for 
good reason." 

Jackson ousted or disposed of a not much greater propor- 
tion of officeholders than Jefferson had. Yet it is undeniable 
that Jackson established through his partisan appointment 
policy the spoils system in national politics. The demand for 
reform had to be met head on, and a redistribution of Federal 
offices was the swiftest, shrewdest answer a Western Irishman 
with good political intuition could possibly have found. The 
common man had too long been thwarted by aristocratic in- 
difference and Jackson was duty-bound to make the first peo- 
ple's administration in truth a government of, by, and for those 
who had finally elected him. 

30. Schlesinger, op. ctt., p. 47. 


Van Buren, the Dutch Jim Farley of his time, had been told 
by a Pennsylvania politician: "If you wish to keep up the 
party, you must induce them to believe that it is their interest. 
Some few may adhere to the party from mere conscientious 
conviction of doing right but interest is a powerful stimulus 
to make them act energetically and efficiently." 31 

Redistribution of political posts served urgent political needs. 
Political rewards had long beea used effectively in the colonies 
and states. They also helped raise funds in the party of the 
poor worMngman. As is true today, the conservative or monied 
side never needed to look far for large contributions from 
wealthy adherents. But the party of the common people had 
few resources save patronage at its disposal. If Jackson's im- 
pressive mandate was to mean anything at all it had to be 
integrated and organized at the roots. 

Beyond composing a green political organization of unen- 
dowed common men, the spoils system also contributed to the 
fundamental objective of restoring faith in a Federal govern- 
ment. Mr. Schlesinger says: 32 

In the eyes of the people, the bureaucracy had been cor- 
rupted by its vested interests in its own power. Jackson told 
Congress: "Office is considered as a species of property, and 
government rather as a means of promoting individual inter- 
ests than as the instrument created solely for the service of 
the people. 7 * 

Jackson believed that official duties could be made "so 
plain and simple that men of intelligence may readily qualify 
themselves for their performance. 7 ' His quick action on this 
principle meant that the government was no longer "an 
engine for the support of the few at the expense of the 

The doctrine of rotation-in-office was thus in a large part 
conceived as a sincere measure of reform. Many professional 
reformers so regarded it Robert Dale Owen hailed it en- 
thusiastically in his radical New York sheet, the Free En- 
quirer, and Jeremy Bentham, the great English reformer, 

31. Ibid., p. 46. 32. Ibid. 

Invents the Spoils System 77 

confided to Jackson, as one liberal to another, that he had 
held the doctrine of rotation himself since 1821. 

In a larger context, which contemporary Americans could 
only have dimly apprehended, rotation-in-office possessed 
another significance. The history of government has been 
characterized by the decay of old ruling classes and the rise 
of more vigorous and intelligent ones to replace them. This 
process had already begun in America. The "natural aristoc- 
racy" of Richard Hildreth the class composed of merchant, 
banker, planter, lawyer and clergyman had started to de- 
cline after the War of 1812. The rise of the military hero, a 
new "natural" aristocrat, hastened the time for a general 
breaking-up of the old governing elite. In extreme cases one 
ruling order succeeds another by violent revolution, but a 
democracy which preserves equality of opportunity may 
escape so drastic a solution. The spoils system, whatever its 
faults, at least destroyed peaceably the monopoly of offices 
by a class which could not govern, and brought to power 
a fresh and alert group which had the energy to meet the 
needs of the day. 

A century later, Franklin Delano Roosevelt proved anew this 
truth by destroying the traditional monopoly of those he 
termed "economic royalists" and substituting laws made by 
officeholders and policymakers from every walk of life, income, 
race, creed, color, and religion, many of whom had been pre- 
viously barred by a "'gentleman's agreement" among members 
of this economic royalty. Fresh ideas, fresh talent, fresh en- 
thusiasm immediately surged through the circulation of politi- 
cal blood in the 19305, as they had in the 1830$, and reforms 
whose advocacy had beaten Greeley and Bryan (and hurt 
T.R. and Wilson with intelligent, influential families ) became 
law almost overnight. The people were once again ranning the 
works, in Carl Sandburg's phrase, as the people had first run. 
them after the bloodless Jacksonian revolution. 

Until recent years [says Mr. Schlesinger], the study of 
the spoils system has been marred by a tendency to sub- 
stitute moral disapproval for an understanding of causes and 
necessities. There can be small doubt today that, whatever 


evils it brought into American life, its historical function was 
to narrow the gap between the people and the government 
to expand popular participation in the workings of democ- 
racy. For Jackson it was an essential step in the gradual 
formulation of a program for democratic America. 33 

After Andrew Jackson, Presidents of the United States found 
the office immeasurably more powerful because they now pos- 
sessed that most persuasive of authorities: the right to hire and 
fire. This victor's privilege expanded until half a century later 
when the behavior of General Grant's venal cronies forced the 
Congress to modify the spoils system in favor of a permanent 
Federal Civil Service at certain (though by no means all) 
levels and areas of government. 

In spite of modifications, much of Andrew Jackson's rotation 
policy remains today, to the great benefit of a modern occupant 
of the White House. The profound frustration most Presidents 
undergo when their programs and policies either sink into the 
slough of what Cleveland called "innocuous desuetude" or 
succumb to downright partisan attack is nevertheless allevi- 
ated by the Jacksonian power-precedent of removal and ap- 
pointment. The American spoils system as it now operates 
undoubtedly stems from Jackson. And what reader of U. S. 
history can doubt that its volatile inventor was motivated at 
least in considerable part by a lifetime devotion to the memory 
of his slandered, martyred Rachel, the pipe-smoking woman he 

33- I, p. 47- 

Abraham Lincoln 

A TERRIFYING specter had arisen to badger the towering, 
sad-faced President from the prairie. Devoted since boy- 
hood to the personal freedoms of every man, he was now face 
to face with the need for a drastic extension of an executive 
order which would destroy one of the fundamental freedoms of 
all citizens before the law. What was worse, there was no 
certainty that he was acting legally within his Constitutional 

Abraham Lincoln had found himself obliged, after the sober- 
ing consequences of the military blow to the Northern cause 
at BuH Run, to modify one of the fundamental precepts of the 
precious document he had sworn as President to defend. 1 He 
had had to suspend the traditional writ of habeas corpus, a 
precept of free men, in certain cases necessary to the prosecu- 
tion of the war and the safety of the Union he would save. 
Here and there he had had to abrogate free man's fundamental 
premise since the Magna Charta, but he had done it hesitantly 
and infrequently, only along the military borders between the 
Blue and the Gray. 

But it was now 1863 and things men would have hesitated 
to accept in a peaceful democratic society had become less 
and less important in the glare of the one fundamental fact: 
this was the most awful war yet fought on the face of the earth 

i. "The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records 
of the Union and Confederate Annies." War Department publication 
(Washington, D.C., 1902). 



Suspends Habeas Corpus 

and it was not going to be won or lost in a few short weeks. 
Habeas corpus, the safeguard against indefinite imprisonment 
or detention without due process of law, was of less moment 
now than the overpowering, overwhelming fact that the 
United States of America would cease to exist altogether if 
the President's command failed. 

There had been disheartening days indeed for the Union 
Army. It was now two years of war and there were no vic- 
tories worthy of the name. Washington itself might be lying 
in ruins under the Stars and Bars had those triumphant at BuU 
Run not tried to drink one another under the table in rejoicing. 
Each day had brought new depressions and disappointments, 
but to the tall, often depressed, ever-harried President who 
ate so little at the White House table there was at last a man 
with a lantern in the* darkness. His name was Hooker. 

Joe Hooker, blond and good-looking, dashing, not yet fifty 
years old, a true martial air about him, was the storybook 
general, spoiling for a fight and brimming with brave words. 
It was always "when* and never "if; Richmond was not in 
dubious assault, it was already fallen. Fearful as Mr. Lincoln 
was now of optimists and boasters, and aware that Hooker 
was a brusque man ("this is the most depressing thing about 
Hooker," he told a friend), the President nevertheless cast 
his eye upon Hooker's lantern and kept it there as though it 
were a ray of hope, for there was a certain splendor about Joe 



It was then that Hooker came to the throne after the unlucky 
Burnside, the timorous and maladroit McCIellan, the beaten 
McDowell. Forgotten for the moment were the fiasco of Bull 
Run, the Peninsula campaign, Fredericksburg, and the stinging 
editorials and cartoons that had followed. This was to be the 
first move up the ladder out of the muck and mess of slavery, 
partition, and war. At last the President seemed to have found 
his General. 

By the final week in April, 1863, Fighting Joe Hooker had 
moved his army to the Rappahannock River and was searching 
out General Lee. He had not long to wait. Lee, with 63,000 
men, rested and waited for the frontal assault near a clearing 
and a few houses called Chancellorsville, halfway between 
Richmond and Washington. 

On the first of May, Hooker, with what he confidently told 
Mr. Lincoln was "the finest army on the planet," moved most 
of this regenerated Army of the Potomac across the Rappa- 
hannock, a rain-filled northeast Virginia stream, to crush the 
rebellion once and for all. A vigilant President had visited this 
new army and his often wholly funereal demeanor seemed to 
his associates in Washington to lighten into real hope as the 
battle was joined. 

At about the same time that spring the Federal Navy was 
attempting to recapture Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, and 
a fleet of ironclad men-of-war, fully and carefully prepared for 
the action, set out to crush this symbol of revolt at the very 
point of its birth. The nation knew, as the nation always seems 
to know, of great events in the making. It was one of those elec- 
tric times; and the pale, thin man in the White House, whose 
exceeding physical strength was still remembered in the 
wooded lands of the Kankakee basin, could do nothing but 
pace sleepless and impotent as he waited for the first dis- 
patches. He needed more than the thrill of a genuine military 
victory at Chancellorsville or the pride of recapture of be- 
leaguered Fort Sumter. Not Lincoln's damaged ego, nor his 
stature as President and Commander in Chief of the armed 
forces, nor his political fortunes alone required shoring up. 
To Lincoln, a man of principle above all, the two years of 

Suspends Habeas Corpus 83 

disastrous war without a victory had forced him into other 
painful compromises. A winning Hooker, a victorious Chan- 
cellorsville, a recaptured Charleston harbor might make it 
possible for him to extract one of the tainted thorns which 
hurt him most his enforced decision to suspend the inalien- 
able right of habeas corpus in limited frontal areas where he 
had to declare suspension necessary for the public safety. 

Now in late April, 1863, almost two years after Bull Run, 
when apple blossoms burgeoned in unexampled loveliness in 
the valley of the Shenandoah, the sensitive President who 
wished above all else to preserve the freedoms of the last best 
hope of earth awaited news from Chancellorsville and the 
boastful Hooker, and from the Navy concerning their attempt 
to recapture Fort Sumter. He had not long to wait. 

Communiques of the victor usually outspeed the report of 
the defeated, who hangs on to scrape up the crumbs of hope. 
Long before news came from battlefield and harbor, there 
were rumors of defeat everywhere in Washington. Reports 
told how Lee had bluffed with 35,000 men and held a Union 
force four times its size while General Thomas J. (Stonewall) 
Jackson was on his way with 28,000 men on a quick long march 
around Hooker's flank, an encirclement which so crumpled 
the Union force that Hooker pulled back across the Rappa- 
hannock, having used scarcely a third of his troops. 

They told how Hooker, who had previously given blow for 
blow, bluff and hearty, had suddenly traded dashing offensive 
for overcautiousness and had in fact outdone McClellan in this 
respect the McClellan whom Hooker had berated to the 
President for his tiptoe tactics. 

They left little doubt of a Confederate victory far greater 
and graver than that at Bull Run and confirmed the compe- 
tence of the rebel generals, even though (unknown to the 
dispatcher) the incomparable Jackson now lay dying near the 
shaded bank of a river. 

From the sea had also come ugly news. The great shore 
batteries of Fort Sumter had hurled back the ironclad fleet, 
sinking or damaging four. Admiral Dupont, who in Lincoln's 
words was "everlastingly asking for more gunboats, more iron- 


clads and [would] do nothing with any," had emulated Mc- 
Clellan. Timidity and disaster were the order of the day. 

And how did this affect the man who, according to American 
school histories, never once faltered? Did this lowest muddy 
ebb of Union fortunes uncover doubts and discouragements 
yet unplumbed? Without doubt it did, and we have but to 
examine the record sketchily to see how much suffering this 
lonely human soul must have endured in the ulcerous, despair- 
ing days that spring of 1863. 

Chancellorsville's debacle and the naval failure to recapture 
Fort Sumter meant ominous things in the grand pageantry of 
Civil War. Years later, when someone asked Hooker what went 
wrong at Chancellorsville, the culpable general knew a rare 
moment of humility and remarked, "Well, to tell the truth, I 
just lost confidence in Joe Hooker/" 2 Had he been as fortibright 
immediately after Chancellorsville, Hooker's uninspired leader- 
ship might have been partially forgiven by the President of 
the United States, who had a keen sense of humor and an IHI- 
derstandable fondness for candor. 

But victory at Chancellorsville was now a bloody fraud and 
the country knew it; even worse, the President knew that the 
country knew it. Copperheads were born with Chancellors- 
ville, though spawned at an obscure moment earlier in the war. 
It was only when the country began to realize failure with the 
shock of a cold wind on May Day in 1863 that the storm began 
to break. But break it did by the end of the month. 

The Copperheads were the first to sense its proportions. 
They loaded their guns with this potent ammunition and the 
noise was enormous. An Ohio Congressman, a Democrat 
named Clement Vallandigham, spoke out on the floor of the 
House that the war for the Union "is in your hands a most 
bloody and costly failure." He advised strongly now as he had 
hinted before Hooker's defeat and the failure at Fredericks- 
burg that the North should "stop fighting make an armistice 
accept at once friendly foreign mediation." 

After Chancellorsville, Vallandigham made such a violent 

2. Brace Catton, Glory Road (Garden City, Doubleday and Company, 
Inc., 1954), P- 230. 

Suspends Habeas Corpus 85 

and offensive series of speeches against the President person- 
ally, and against the government' s part in the war, that General 
Burnside, who was commanding die troops in Ohio, had him 
arrested and court-martialed. Thereupon most of the Demo- 
crats in Washington rose up in loud protest. 

Lincoln regretted Burnside's action but supported his own 
General against the violent agitator. Newspapers of the day 
and magazines, too, picked up this incident as a firing pin for 
a broadside of unmitigated, libelous, and often treasonable 
protest and personal criticism of Lincoln and the administra- 
tion (which Carl Sandburg believes has no parallel for personal 
insult in all the depressing story of partisan American politics ) . 

No one loving Abraham Lincoln could wish to believe that 
he alone held up his head on the black day that the boastful 
Hooker gave way as all had before him, and Charleston harbor 
still was rebel. It is Pollyanna stuff, and grossly unfair, to say 
that Lincoln took it calmly and with a steady eye on the ulti- 
mate victory. The record does not show it; the record shows a 
stricken, brooding human being, dreadfully aware of the shape 
of things, striding about the room "piteous, broken and so 
ghostlike," clasping his hands behind him and saying as he 
walked back and forth: "My God! My God! What will the 
country say? What will the country say?" 

The country as a whole was not at once awake to this fresh 
and deepest disaster for the Lip coin Administration and the 
Northern cause. Newspaper headlines then read a good deal 
like any war communiques, especially later headlines in the 
American press during the French and British rout in the 
World War II Nazi breakthrough at Sedan. They were at first 
invariably overoptimistic in fact several papers initially called 
Hooker's stand a victory, though he retreated the next day. 

May First was a day of national fasting. The New-York 
Tribune? reported that the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher 
in Plymouth Church called for thanks to God for the progress 
of things. On page one of several succeeding issues appeared 
three- and four-column maps of the territory of the Rappa- 
hannock near Fredericksburg, with scarcely a showing of 

3. Archives, New York Herald Tribune. 


Chancellorsville, and the issue of May 2 carried the prominent 
headline, "The Enemy Confounded/' while telling of Hooker's 
crossing of the river to engage and destroy the enemy once and 
for all. The issue of May 4 reported: "The Enemy Panic 
Stricken." And on May 5: "The Enemy in Retreat/' with a 
subsidiary headline: "Concentration of Rebels on Our Right 
Wing" (what an understatement of Stonewall Jackson's bril- 
liant encircling maneuver!). 

But on May 6 the correspondent was not as certain of the 
completeness of Hooker's "victory" and his dispatch was very 
forthright The headlines of the day included: "The Battle 
Still Unfinished" and "Bad Behavior of the nth Corps." Next 
day the lines read: "Nobody Here Knows Anything" and "Loss 
to Enemy Very Large." On May 8 was reported Hooker's "Suc- 
cessful Recrossing of the River" and 'Terrible Repulses of the 
Enemy." In adjacent columns appeared the first full dispatches 
from rebel Richmond, where Lee was announcing the greatest 
victory, with accompanying details which history has borne 
out. The Tribune was one of the few papers in the North to 
carry this sobering dispatch. 

The arrest of Vallandigham had indirectly involved the Pres- 
ident's abrogation of the writ of habeas corpus. The term 
liabeas corpus is Latin for "you may have the body." In law 
it is a writ directed by a judge to some person who is detaining 
another person. The writ commands that the body of the per- 
son in custody be brought to a specific place at a specific time 
for a specific hearing. The purpose of the writ of habeas 
corpus, one of the great traditions of free men, is to prevent 
indefinite imprisonment or detention without due process of 
law. It is a safeguard against illegal confinement of any sort, 
particularly effective against dictators, who universally ignore 

Under Anglo-Saxon tradition a man must be told why he has 
been arrested and, within a reasonable time, given a hearing. 
He cannot be held incommunicado and he cannot be held in- 
definitely without being informed why. If those holding him 
have no case against him they must, under traditional British- 

Suspends Habeas Corpus 87 

American codes, let him go free and not after years o im- 
prisonment, but witHn hours or, at worst, days. What springs 
him from indefinite imprisonment without formal charges is 
the tradition of habeas corpus. 

The phrase is mentioned as early as the fourteenth century 
in England. It became part of English law as the Habeas 
Corpus Act of 1679 and has long been regarded as perhaps 
the most fundamental legal freedom we possess. British colo- 
nists in America were often denied it. Refusal of stubborn 
colonial judges to issue the writ was among the foremost 
grievances leading to the Declaration of Independence. The 
issue is mentioned specifically in the American Constitution, 
and not by chance: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused 
shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an im- 
partial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall 
have been committed . . . and to be informed of the nature 
and cause of the accusation." 

To implement this freedom, most natural in the making of a 
free society, it is provided in the Constitution that the privilege 
of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended "unless, 
when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may 
require it" 

Mr. Lincoln had, early in the war, authorized General Win- 
field Scott, the man originally in charge of Federal military 
operations, to suspend the writ of habeas corpus along any 
military line between Washington and Philadelphia. This order 
of 1861 quickly brought cries of despotism and military dic- 
tatorship against the administration, but Mr. Lincoln did not 
hesitate to extend it ruthlessly (and did) as he felt the public 
safety would require. 

Before adjourning in August, 1861, Congress had voted, be- 
sides the men and munitions to carry on the war, ex post facto 
justification for Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus and 
other "illegal" proclamations. 

As the President began to tamper with the ancient privilege 
of the writ of habeas corpus many of the guarantees of the 
Constitution vanished, and Justice Taney, sitting in the circuit 
court in Baltimore, had handed down the opinion that the 


President had no Constitutional power to suspend the writ nor 
authorize a military officer to do so. Margaret Leech tells the 
story well: 4 

The venerable judge had become embroiled in the case 
of John Merryman, confined for treasonable activities in Fort 
McHenry. The soldiers at the fort would neither yield the 
person of John Merryman, nor admit the United States 
marshal to serve an order against their commanding general 
for contempt. Taney's decision provoked much discussion, 
but he was an aged man of Southern bias. The conservative 
Attorney General, Mr. Bates, sustained the President. The 
majority of loyal men at first accepted the arbitrary arrests 
as necessary to the nation's struggle for survival, even when 
in September of 1861 General Dix and General Banks 
rounded up secessionist legislators of Maryland and clapped 
them into prison. 

One of the most spectacular instances of military rule, exer- 
cised under the suspension of habeas corpus, was the case of 
one John Murphy who tried to secure the release of his son 
James who had enlisted under the legal age of eighteen. A 
Federal judge in Maryland issued the usual habeas corpus 
just before Lincoln suspended the writ in the District of 
Columbia. The writ was directed to General Andrew Porter 
who refused to respect it. 

Very quickly, the attorney who had served the writ was him- 
self arrested by General Porter, who was provost marshal, and 
languished in the guardhouse. Then, the Federal judge who 
had issued the writ returned home to find an armed sentinel 
at his cloor. The authority responsible was capricious Secretary 
of State William H. Seward, who had boasted that he had 
but to ring his tiny bell and any man, woman, or child in the 
Republic could be imprisoned. The ambitious Secretary was 
hated and feared above all others in the Cabinet for exercising 
these arbitrary powers as a dictator would. Eventually every- 
one involved was set free, but not before the Federal Constitu- 
tion had been not only violated but raped repeatedly. 

4. Margaret Leech, Reveille in Washington (New York, Harper and 
Brothers, 1941), pp. 142-44. 

Suspends Habeas Corpus 89 

Suspects were carried off to military prisons, often se- 
cretly, by night. Their houses were searched, their valuables 
seized. In most cases they were not even informed of the 
charges against them. They were not permitted to have legal 
advice, and no expectation of trial by jury mitigated the dis- 
comforts of their detention. . . . They could only hope that 
the pressure of their claims might call them to the State De- 
partment's attention, and win them a special examination. 
Often when this was held, it developed there had been in- 
sufficient grounds for the arrest. 3 

On the other hand, there was a remarkable amount of seces- 
sionist sympathy in the North, particularly in Washington, 
Philadelphia, Baltimore, and along the border states. In singu- 
lar contrast to the arbitrary arrests and dictatorial conduct of 
Seward and his department, there was unusual leniency in 
most cases of doubtful Unionists. Often, only in extreme in- 
stances were they arrested or imprisoned. Congress had passed 
a strong bill requiring all Federal employees to take an un- 
usually severe oath to support the Constitution, but many de- 
partments had been slack in applying the law because so many 
Washington employees were of Virginian and other Southern 

A departmental mail pouch in the War Department was, for 
example, freely used by rebel sympathizers for transmission of 
information to Richmond. It hung in the hall and anyone 
could without question put notes in and take them out. 

On assuming office in 1862 as Secretary of War, Edwin M. 
Stanton stopped such rebel nonsense and soon was also given 
the State Department's jurisdiction over political prisoners, 
which meant the handling of habeas corpus. The most obvious 
cases of misguided justice under State Department procedures 
were set free by Stanton at once. Usually there was no record 
of the charges against them, and Secretary Seward's little bell 
tinkled no more. 

In retrospect, this part of Abraham Lincoln's Administration 
is difficult for the most pro-Northern sympathizer to swallow, 
context discounted. More than 13,000 persons were arrested 

5. Ibid. 


by the War Department alone and no one knows how many 
others were detained on despotic grounds. Military trials in 
camera and arbitrary arrests developed into a despotic system 
the like of which our country has never known before or since. 

To this day there are few dungeons with a more evil reputa- 
tion than the Old Capitol Prison on First Street in Washington, 
where so many victims of the suspension of the writ of habeas 
corpus ate their hearts out, and occasionally were beaten until 
they died, or sickened out of Me on the vile food and filth and 

President Lincoln's conduct during the Civil War was con- 
spicuous by the variety and number of his un-Constitutional 
acts. 6 "Yet every one of them" says historian Woodward, "may 
be justified on the ground of necessity. The situation clearly 
demonstrated the Constitutional weakness of the Chief Execu- 
tive power in a time of emergency. Buchanan was right in de- 
claring that he could find no Constitutional authority for using 
force against a State that had seceded." 

Lincoln had personally suspended the right of habeas corpus, 
though it would appear from the wording of the Constitution 
that Congress alone has that authority. 7 Certainly Article I, 
Section 9 is perfectly plain on this point: "The privilege of the 
writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in 
cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." 

The implication is clearly legislative because Article I of 
the Constitution has to do solely with the composition, powers, 
and procedures of the Congress. The Presidency is not men- 
tioned until the first two words of Article II. Therefore, Lin- 
coln's original executive order suspending the writ of habeas 
corpus without Congressional assent was undoubtedly unlaw- 

Thousands of Americans were thrown into jail and confined 
for months without even being informed of the charges against 
them. Stupid military officers had the power to arrest any 

6. W. E. Woodward, A New American History ( Garden City, Garden 
City Press, 1938), p. 525. 

7. In fairness to Lincoln, it should be explained that Congress was 
not in session at the time of suspension. 

Suspends Habeas Corpus 91 

American citizen and put him or her in prison without indict- 
ment, warrant, or explanation. As in the case of the Maryland 
judge, even persons attached to the law were subject to illegal 
whim. Subordinates even raided newspapers and stopped their 
publication, once again in defiance of the Federal Constitution, 
in this instance contrary to the First Amendment. 

Did the end justify the means? Let Lincoln himself say it, 
as he so often did, best of all: 

Soon after the first call for militia, I felt it my duty to 
authorize the commanding general in proper cases, accord- 
ing to his discretion, to suspend the privilege of the writ of 
habeas corpus, or, in other words, to arrest and detain, 
without resort to the ordinary processes and forms of law, 
such individuals as he might deem dangerous to the public 
safety. ... At my verbal request, as well as by the general's 
own inclination, this authority has been exercised but very 
sparingly. Nevertheless, the legality and propriety of what 
has been done under it are questioned; and I have been 
reminded from a high quarter that one who is sworn to "take 
care that the laws be faithfully executed'* should not himself 
be one to violate them. 

Of course I gave some consideration to the questions of 
power and propriety before I acted in this matter. The whole 
of the laws which I have sworn to take care that they be 
faithfully executed were being resisted, and failing to be 
executed, in nearly one-third of the States. Must I have al- 
lowed them to finally fail of execution, even had it been 
perfectly clear that by the use of the means necessary to 
their execution some single law, made in such extreme ten- 
derness of the citizen's liberty, that practically it relieves' 
more of the guilty than the innocent, should, to a very 
limited extent, be violated? 

To state the question more directly, are all the laws but 
one to go unexecuted, and the Government itself go to 
pieces, lest that one be violated? Even in such a case I 
should consider my official oath broken, if I should allow 
the Government to be overthrown, when I might think the 
disregarding the single law would tend to preserve it. But 
in this case I was not, in my own judgment, driven to this 


In my opinion, I violated no law. The provision of the 
Constitution that "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus 
shall not be suspended unless when, in cases of rebellion or 
invasion, the public safety may require it," is equivalent 
to a provision is a provision that such privilege may be 
suspended when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public 
safety does require it. 

I decided that we have a case of rebellion, and that the 
public safety does require the qualified suspension of the 
privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, which I authorized 
to be made. Now it is insisted that Congress, and not the 
executive, is vested with this power. But the Constitution 
itself is silent as to which, or who, is to exercise the power; 
and as the provision plainly was made for a dangerous 
emergency, I cannot bring myself to believe that the framers 
of that instrument intended that in every case the danger 
should run its course until Congress could be called together, 
the very assembling of which might be prevented, as was 
intended in this case by the rebellion. 

This message was addressed to the Congress on July 4, 1861. 
The above version was the first draft in which Lincoln wrote 
as if he might be talking with a friend, using *T* and "my." But 
by the time the message was delivered to Capitol Hill someone 
had prevailed on Lincoln to act more like a President, so he 
modified the personal pronouns and inserted legal jargon. 

In whatever form it was persuasive. Congress legitimatized 
Lincoln's limited executive order in August, 1861, as Congress 
had legitimatized Jefferson's purchase of Louisiana after the 
fact, and as it was to do again with President Truman when 
U. S. troops were sent to aid Korea against Communist aggres- 

The President had moved very slowly in abrogating the cher- 
ished writ which he, above anyone, instinctively admired as 
fundamental to a free society. In the spring of 1861 he had au- 
thorized limited suspension of habeas corpus on a small section 
of the Florida coast. In the summer of 1861 he had expanded it 
to the military line north of Philadelphia as far as New-York. In 
the fall of 1861 he suspended habeas corpus for all military 
personnel in the District of Columbia. He hoped against hope 

Suspends Habeas Corpus 93 

that the war might progress to a point where even these slight 
trespasses against freedom could be removed. 

It wasn't until the disastrous autumn of 1862, however, that 
Lincoln was compelled to deny the privilege of habeas corpus 
to all persons imprisoned by military order. Slowly the black 
mantle of defeat was falling on military and civilian alike. 

Now in 1863, with Hooker's rout at Chancellorsville and the 
path wide open for Lee to invade the North (probably at Har- 
risburg, Pennsylvania), Lincoln considered a final seal on the 
door of Constitutional freedom. Even the great victory at 
Gettysburg from July i to 4 failed to lift the extreme eventual 
danger, for no one was then sure that Lee would not try again, 
perhaps at Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Washington. Gettysburg 
was a great Federal victory, but a defensive one. It had stopped 
an invasion. It hadn't won a war. 

So in the late summer of 1863 Abraham Lincoln received 
from Salmon P. Chase, his reluctant Secretary of the Treasury, 
the following notation: 8 

You, Mr. President, have believed that you have the power 
to suspend the writ of habeas corpus without being author- 
ized by Congress and in some cases you have acted on this 
belief. After much consideration, I have come to the con- 
clusion that your opinion and mine are sanctioned by the 
Constitution. Whatever doubt there may have been as to 
your power to suspend the writ, it has been removed by ex- 
press legislation. 

Chase urged the President to make the suspension of habeas 
corpus national in scope, applying to all civilians as well as all 
miHtary personnel. One reason was that the military draft was 
making trouble in Northern cities, particularly New-York, and 
some sort of enforcement had to be legalized. Suspension of 
habeas corpus was as forceful a method as any, for it gave the 
commanding general in each district the right to clap into jail 
anyone who refused to be drafted (or pay for a legal substi- 
tute) without going to the lengths of protracted court proce- 

8. Carl Sandburg, Vol. IT, Abraham Lincoln, The War Years (New 
York, Harcotirt, Brace and Company, Inc., 1939), p. 445. 


Chase pleaded with the President to make the order sus- 
pending tie writ a presidential proclamation so bold and clear 
that it would command public confidence if a collision arose 
with a state governor or local judge. Lincoln acted at once on 
the suggestion. 

So, on the same day, September 15, 1863, Abraham Lincoln 
issued the fateful nationwide proclamation as finally drafted 
by Secretary of State Seward. In what Carl Sandburg aptly 
describes as "a solemn vocabulary/* 9 it was made known by 
the President that the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus 
"is suspended throughout the United States" This suspension 
would continue until modified or revoked by a later proclama- 
tion. The syllables of the document "produced a sonorous pro- 
nouncement" that backed up the provost marshal with all the 
power at the command of the United States Army and Navy. 
It would indeed be a sure and useful instrument with which 
to prosecute the war to a successful end. 

Readers of history have often wondered why Lincoln, with 
Gettysburg and Vicksburg to support him, resorted to universal 
suspension of habeas corpus. But two terrible things lingered 
in fiie back of his mind throughout the summer of 1863, com- 
bining to make necessary his proclamation suspending the 
writ of freedom for all Americans. 

The first fact was the ghastly pattern of Chancellorsville and 
the still-to-be-found general who could take charge and end 
the war. Lincoln could only guess after Vicksburg. It would 
take the bloody, incredible Wilderness of 1864 and 1865, the 
bulldog grinding down of Robert E. Lee's once unmatched 
forces to turn the tide Lincoln still could not be certain of, 
even after Gettysburg and Vicksburg. The ghost of Joe Hooker 
and all the other pitifully impotent generals who had boasted 
and failed continually stalked the reaches of the President's 
vast mind. 

The second fact was draft rioting which broke out in New- 
York only ten days after the glorious "victory'' at Gettysburg. 
The Union conscription act of March 3, 1863, had provided 

Q. Ibid. 

Suspends Habeas Corpus 95 

that all able-bodied males between twenty and forty-five 
were liable to military service. Any draftee wlio gave -the 
government $300 or furnished an acceptable substitute for a 
fee was excused. It was a dreadfully defective piece of legis- 
lation and the most unpopular in America until the Prohibition 
Amendment at the end of World War L It was undemocratic. 
It placed a premium on wealth, for only the comparatively 
wealthy of Civil War days could afford to give the government 
$300, or pay some such sum to another to take one's place. The 
poor who could not afford these things were clapped into uni- 

From July 13 to 16, 1863, the echoes of glorious Gettysburg 
still ringing on the front pages, there occurred bloody, large- 
scale riots in New- York where Governor Horatio Seymour, a 
Democrat, had publicly declared the conscription act un-Con- 
stitutional. The tremendous mob, much of it foreign-born and 
of the laboring class (which had considerable cause), over- 
powered the militia and police and seized the Second Avenue 
armory with its guns and ammunition, setting fire to the build- 

Abolitionists and Negroes were singled out for attack in the 
unreasoning logic of the New-York mob. Southern sympathizers 
worked overtime everywhere in the city to pour insidious gaso- 
line on the flames. Business ceased. Looting and murder were 
the order of the day. Tammany ran the town then, as now, and 
was forced to vote that the city would pay the $300 required 
for anyone who might be drafted and did not wish to go to 

Meanwhile, the famous Seventh Regiment of New-York, 
fresh from the laurels o Gettysburg, was rushed back to Man- 
hattan. With the aid of cadets from West Point, the local 
police, the militia, and the United States Navy, order was 
eventually restored. Casualties may have been as high as a 
thousand people, and damage was certainly in the millions, 
but no one can ever really know. 

Lincoln eventually got Congress to modify the draft act so 
that the privilege of buying one's way out of service was limited 


to conscientious objectors. All others had to go when their 
numbers came up, if they were fit, regardless of wealth, station, 
influence, or background. 

The draft riots deeply impressed the President. Coupled 
with the perpetually gnawing fear of Joe Hookers by whatever 
name on his general staff and there were still plenty of them 
it is little wonder that he issued the fateful proclamation of 
September, 1863, widening suspension of the writ of habeas 
corpus to apply to all American citizens. To a Chief Executive 
who could write the editor of the New-York Tribune, Horace 
Greeley, that even slavery could be condoned if it meant pres- 
ervation of the Union, the proclamation of temporary suspen- 
sion of personal freedom was understandable. 

All Presidents feel the greatness of the office, but all Presi- 
dents cannot respond to it. That Lincoln knew well the terrible 
step he was taking when he suspended the precious right of 
habeas corpus no sensible reader of history can for a moment 
doubt. Nor can there be the slightest question that only great 
Presidents see ultimate goals and sweep all else aside to achieve 
them. Taking the grave step he did, the Commander in Chief 
of the Union he preserved altered irrevocably the concept of 
the Presidency, increased the precedent of presidential power 
in a time of national crisis and, however painful to himself, 
sanctified the highest office the American people have it in 
their power to bestow. 

Chester Arthur 

WHEN RUTHERFORD B. HAYES 1 became President of the 
United States, upsetting Samuel J. Tilden in an election 
Tilden had rightly won, he wished particularly to show New 
York that honesty would be his policy, for Tilden had been 
Governor of New York and every literate American knew that 
Hayes and the Republicans had stolen the Presidency. Gover- 
nor Tilden had had a substantial popular majority and, in the 
original electoral college, a comfortable margin of states as 
well. But the prevailing post-Civil War Republican machine 
had so finagled the electoral commission that disputed electoral 
delegations from Western and Southern states were juggled to 
make Hayes President of the United States by a single vote. 

President Hayes was, therefore, understandably sensitive 
to charges of corruption and malodorous politics when his 
salutary new administration spotted smells drifting from the 
office of the Collector of the New York Custom House. After 
much self-righteous fanfare, Hayes removed a Republican, 
one Chester Alan Arthur, the Collector, but left untouched 
most of the party's pork-barrel underlings. This and other 
Hayes reforms in the late 1870$ were accomplished, however, 

i. In 1876, when Rutherford B. Hayes was told that his running mate 
would be William A. Wheeler, Hayes replied: "And who is William 
A. Wheeler?'* James G. Blaine had had the presidential nomination of 
1876 sewed up when suddenly the gas lights failed and the convention 
was forced to recess on account of darkness. When the delegates re- 
assembled the next day, enthusiasm for Blaine had cooled; thus, Hayes, 
not Blaine, became President of the United States. 



Rises to the Occasion 

over the violent objection of the New York Republican machine 
which was led by Roscoe Conkling, Senator from New York 
and fountainhead of New York Republicanism. The need for 
civil service reform had been a burning political issue ever 
since the Grant scandals, but Conkling cared little or nothing 
for public opinion and reformers made him actively ill. So he 
broke with Hayes, who had upset Grant's third-term plans, and 
got his revenge on Hayes at the Republican Convention of 

By that year President Hayes had so alienated Conkling 
that Hayes had no chance for re-election, and besides he was 
committed to a single term of office. Moreover, the James G. 
Elaine wing of the Republican Party, which hated Conkling, 
hated Hayes even more. 2 

At the convention of 1880, Conklingites characterized them- 
selves as Stalwarts, hewing firmly to the Old Guard and the 
conservative approach that thought nothing of waving the 
bloody shirt of Southern insurrection to win an election fifteen 
years after the Civil War's last gun was silenced. The Elaine 
faction, on the other hand, was contemptuously referred to as 

Conkling's Stalwarts came to the convention determined that 
General Grant should have a third term in spite of the scandals 
and the incompetence. But such was the temper of the common 

2. Peter Levin, Seven By Chance (New York, Fairar, Straus and 
Company, 1948), pp. 146-76. 



people that a great resistance began to form against Conkling 
and Grant and their well-oiled machines. 

A total of 378 votes were needed for nomination, and Conk- 
ling claimed 300 to 350 for Grant on the first ballot Elaine's 
legions claimed 225 to 285. Other nominees were scattered, 
including John Sherman of Ohio who held 90. It seemed 
that all the Grant or Elaine managers had to do was bargain 
proficiently and their man was in, with Grant the favorite to 
take it. 

But the unrelenting stubbornness of the opposition, the arro- 
gance of the autocratic Conkling, the abiding distrust of Elaine, 
and the obstinacy of Sherman to release a single delegate made 
it clear even before the convention opened that first-ballot vic- 
tory was aU important. 3 

By the time the balloting opened, Grant had lost fifty dele- 
gates to Half-Breed minorities. Elaine's nomination speeches 
were incredibly bad; the chief nominator not only apologized 
for Elaine, but got his middle initial wrong. Conkling's oratory 
wasn't as puerile as Elaine's, being carefully planned and pre- 
pared, but it was bitingly sarcastic, which managed to con- 
solidate the alliance against Grant. 

Through thirty-three tedious roll calls the two major candi- 
dates held without major defection. In the baking heat of a 
lake-shore summer in Chicago (there were no air-conditioning 
comforts or loud-speakers to stem the humid chaos), Wisconsin 
suddenly switched to James A. Garfield, who had placed Sher- 
man in nomination. Garfield jumped to his feet to protest, but 
was pounded out of order. Elaine and Sherman went immedi- 
ately over to Garfield, the new hero. On the thirty-fifth ballot 
Garfield had nearly enough votes, and it was all over on the 
thirty-sixth, the sudden movement of a new favorite sweeping 
the day as it has so often in our national conventions, which 
run on the heady fuel of mob psychology. In the end, 306 Stal- 
warts still held out for Grant against Garfield, which boded 
little good for the new candidate in the campaign. Indeed, the 
convention which had repudiated Presidents Hayes and Grant 
was quickly made aware by Conkling that the New York Re- 

3. Ibid. 

Rises to the Occasion 101 

publican organization, among others, would simply sit on its 
hands at election time unless the political bosses could now 
name the vice-presidential candidate. 

Garfield hated Conkiiag with all his being, but he knew, as 
political leaders from Ohio often knew, that compromise was 
the best political course and that Garfield and the Republicans 
would lose the election if Conkling's Stalwarts sabotaged the 
venture. So the horse-trading began. 

First Garfield offered the vice-presidential nomination to 
Levi P. Morton, a wealthy and respectable Grant man who 
could help finance as well as lift the social level of the cam- 
paign. But Morton was advised that Garfield couldn't win, so 
he turned down a vice-presidential nomination which would 
have made him Chief Executive within months o the in- 
auguration. Later Morton did become Vice-President under 
Benjamin Harrison, and later still Governor of New York. 

However unbelievable it would have seemed before the 
event, the unfrocked Chester Alan Arthur of New York was 
finally selected to run with Garfield. If Arthur's appointment 
by party bosses as vice-presidential candidate on the Repub- 
lican ticket appealed to the practical politician and healed 
the wounds of the party, it galled not a few others. Though 
John Sherman publicly endorsed Garfield, he said privately of 
Arthur: "The nomination is a ridiculous burlesque and I am 
afraid was inspired by a desire to beat the ticket." To this 
recondite observation Sherman added that "it was a rather 
scandalous proceeding." 4 

Lack of enthusiasm for Garfield's running mate was evident 
in the nation's press, especially among the liberal Republicans. 
The Democratic press quickly seized upon it, for it gave them 
plenty of ammunition. Only General W. S. Hancock's incredible 
political ineptness destroyed this and other initial advantages 
of a party out of power for twenty increasingly corrupt years. 

Few outside New York State knew that Conkling hadn't 
especially liked the idea of Arthur on the ticket, and believed 
that Conkling had been instrumental in making the deal. 
Arthur had never held elective office prior to the election of 

4. Archives, Pequot Library, Southport, Connecticut. 


1880, but he was patently a Conkling-type politician and had 
been so since tibe end of the Civil War. Moreover, it was un- 
deniable that Arthur had been removed as Collector of the 
New York Customs and, guilty or not guilty, his indictment 
was fixed in the American mind. (It is said in the newspaper 
business that all a man has to have on his record is a headline 
reading "Jones Indicted" and Jones is a criminal in the public's 
mind for the rest of his days, regardless of his guilt or inno- 

Chester Arthur's background was far different from what it 
appeared to be. There were all sorts of misconceptions about 
him, because of his sponsor, his cronies, and his brush with the 
Collectorship. Arthur was a gentleman, a man of taste and 
breeding, of literary discrimination and polish. He loved 
Thackeray and Scott and reread them constantly. His dinner 
table conversation was polished, his manners drawing-room 
perfect. He wore elegant mutton-chop sideburns which met in 
a mustache and his awareness of caste and dress stopped "just 
short of foppery," and certainly belied his Baptist minister 
father and Vermont origins. It isn't at all surprising that he was 
an Episcopalian as an adult, having repudiated the Baptist 
faith for one then generally accepted as "more social." 

It wasn't by chance that Arthur lived on lower Lexington 
Avenue, then the fanciest residence area in Manhattan, had 
several servants, married a girl from a fine Virginia family, and 
loved good wines and French food. By blood he was fascinated 
with politics Irishmen seem to lean naturally that way. He 
was a lawyer, but unsuccessful in the courtroom, preferring 
negotiations to briefs or questioning. He didn't cotton to issues, 
national or local, but rather liked the manipulation, the game, 
the action of man-to-man political give and take. He would 
rather let someone else write his speeches even deliver them 
while he controlled the situation behind the scenes. Mr. 
Levin says: 5 "Arthur seldom concerned himself with the whcfc 
quality of his fascination; the how quality consumed too much 
of his attention. As a politician he bore the same relationship 

5. Levin, op. ctt., p. 158. 

Rises to the Occasion 103 

to a statesman as a mechanic does to a scientist or a printer to 
a poet." 

This, Mstorians feel, explains in large measure Arthur's 
strange career. Essentially he was a private citizen steadily 
pursuing a hobby, but he was not a professional in politics. 
It was his mistress, not his wife. He ultimately became a con- 
summate artist in political control, in what today would be 
accomplished by incessant phone calling, but was then done 
mostly by messenger or in person. Just the same, he too was 
trapped in the quicksand of ambition and, when offered the 
vice-presidential spot on a major party ticket, simply couldn't 
refuse. Few American males could, then or now. 

Although Arthur wasn't in any way a "clubhouse boy/* the 
journals of his time tarred him with the Conkling brush, much 
as many deserving Democrats from Manhattan have since been 
smeared with the transgressions of Tammany Hall. Rather he 
was a happy, back-slapping, genial gentleman, but he was a 
gentleman, where Conkling's other associates seldom were. 

Arthur had been an obscure second-in-command of the 
Conkling machine. He now willingly took another second-in- 
command, the vice-presidential nomination, since in his own 
words even "a barren nomination would be a great honor," 
though Conkling had said, "If you wish for my favor and my 
respect you will contemptuously decline it.** 6 ConkHng may 
have wanted the Vice-Presidency for himself. In any case he 
was a permanent Grant man and a professional politician to 
whom the nomination of Arthur was just one more essential 
compromise. Anyway, the pact had been signed. New York 
nominated Arthur and Ohio seconded foim amid the hisses and 
catcalls of reformers and the silence of the Half-Breeds. Pro- 
fessional politicians had confirmed the arrangement before the 
first roll call. 

The campaign was largely one of silence on the part of the 
ConHing crowd at first. Garfield needed money for the cam- 
paign and New York sat on its hands. Conkling and Arthur 

6. Archives, Museum of the City of New York. 


literally went fishing, shutting off from Garfield's campaign 
funds the tremendous resources of Wall Street and the silk- 
stocking New Yorker. Conkling was simply making certain 
that his own power would continue in New York, that the 
Elaine crowd wouldn't try to move in. 

Eventually it became so painful to Garfield and his finances 
that a tour of New York was arranged, ending up at the Fifth 
Avenue Hotel, which by no coincidence whatsoever turned 
out to be Conkling's headquarters. Morton and Jay Gould and 
Chauncey Depew were there to make certain the Republicans 
would have no money problems. Elaine, Logan, and Sherman 
were there to promise party unity. Arthur, Governor Cornell, 
and Tom Platt were present to assure the New York State 
organization. Only "my Lord Roscoe," as Garfield called him, 
was absent. He was, however, ready now to work with the 
party and for Garfield, having received genuine patronage 
assurances. He and Grant toured Indiana and Ohio in behalf 
of Garfield. Other Stalwarts were dispatched as apostles. 

The "Treaty of Fifth Avenue" may or may not have sur- 
rendered all New York patronage to Conkling: Garfield later 
swore it didn't, though Platt swore it did. The fact is it tempo- 
rarily settled the feud, at least to Conkling's satisfaction, and 
Conkling surely felt he had made a bargain: a pledge to de- 
liver New York State in exchange for the state's share of the 
Federal patronage, in spite of the fact that Conkling had sup- 
ported Grant. 

Maine went Democratic in September, auguring bad omens. 
But General Hancock, whose nomination had been considered 
a master stroke by the Democrats, in imitation of the Repub- 
licans* successful military candidacies, turned out to be a 
master botcher and bungler. He said things during the cam- 
paign, as many military men have said before and since, that 
no trained politician ever says. He made enemies by instinct. 

Moreover, the Democrats very foolishly forged a letter pur- 
porting to show that Garfield favored free immigration of 
Chinese to the Western states. But the letter was circulated 
too long before Election Day and was easily disproved by the 
hour of voting. Even the press sympathetic to a Democratic 

Rises to the Occasion 105 

President denounced the trick, calling it infamous, and Han- 
cock somehow managed to lose the election by a margin of only 
four figures, the closest popular presidential vote in the history 
of the United States. The final tally was: 

James A. Garfield (R) 4,454,416 

Winfield S. Hancock (D) 4,444,952 

Thus, a difference of only 9,464 made Major General James 
A. Garfield President of the United States and Chester Alan 
Arthur, Vice-President. 

The electoral vote of 214 to 155 was much more decisive, 
and the Democrats, who had come so close in 1876 with Sam- 
uel J. Tilden, only to be swindled out of the election, had fallen 
for the sixth consecutive election. The upstart new Repub- 
licans were still undefeated, a remarkable political achievement 
for a young party only a generation born. 

Garfield had been one of hundreds of politicians Abraham 
Lincoln's Secretary of War had somehow fitted into uniform. 7 
Many of them had been handed officers' commissions outright 
and Garfield, a Congressman at that time, had high hopes in 
this direction. Garfield had known, as others knew, the political 
value of heroism and participation on the winning side. He 
hoped above hope to get an independent command where he 
might have the opportunity of associating his name with a 
great victory. He seemed quite certain he possessed military 
genius, though he had had little or no training in tactics. But 
Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War, was finding it far too 
difficult to dig up military plums for all the politicians who 
wanted individual command; so when the assignment came 
for Garfield it was as Chief of Staff to General Rosecrans of 
the Army of the Tennessee, primarily an administrative post 
and no place at all to show off military genius. 

When the ill-starred Rosecrans engineered a major Union 
disaster at Chickamauga he was cashiered, but Garfield, 
through a minor heroism, which was blown up out of pro- 

7. Carl Sandburg, Vol. IE, Abraham Lincoln, The War Years (New 
York, Harconrt, Brace and Company, 1939), passim. 


portion to the truth, emerged a national hero. It won him a 
major general's stars. Thereupon he promptly returned to 
politics and his seat in Congress where the two stars were his 
most valuable stratagem and eventually helped make him 
President of the United States. 

Gradually Garfield inherited the Republican leadership, 
partly through long tenure, partly through the death of the 
detestable Thaddeus Stevens (who had persecuted President 
Johnson), the ascendency of Schuyler Coif ax to the Vice- 
Presidency under General Grant, and James G. Elaine's elec- 
tion from Maine as United States Senator. 

When Garfield and Arthur had been elected to the Presi- 
dency and Vice-Presidency, Garfield wrote in his journal the 
second night in the White House: "I love to deal with doctrines 
and events. The contests of men about men I greatly dislike/* 

The selection of James G. Elaine as Secretary of State might 
have been unfortunate for Garfield, for Elaine possessed a 
strong personality, was sharply and unnecessarily partisan, and 
was Conlding's mortal enemy. Whether Elaine or Garfield 
would have been the real President, had Garfield lived, is 
worthy of conjecture. The struggle to fill his Cabinet and other 
appointments made Garfield's few months in the White House 
completely miserable, caught as he was in the wash of dirty 
politics with Elaine on one side and Conkling's New York 
cronies on the other. Sometimes there was no way of telling 
where anybody stood. 

Garfield won the first few rounds. He got his appointments 
through the Senate, including a man opposed to Conkling as 
the new Collector of New York Customs, as lush a plum as 
could be imagined in politics in those days, for the Collector 
in New York kept a percentage of everything he collected in 
the way of duties and New York was by far the biggest port 
of entry. Garfield went even further. He had campaigned on a 
platform of honesty, reform, and civil service legislation, and 
apparently he meant it. His determination must have given 
Boss Conkling and others in the Grant camp uneasy nights. 

Garfield's first major reforms involved prosecution of the 
"star route" frauds. A star route was a postal route inaccessible 

Rises to the Occasion 107 

by rail or steamboat. The United States Postal Guide desig- 
nated such a route with an asterisk, hence the name. 

In the days before Rural Free Delivery, star routes were 
numerous and important, to the West in particular. There 
was no rail nor water mail route to most Western post offices. 
The mail got there by stage, rider, or runner. Private contracts 
for these star routes had, therefore, to be made individually 
and the bidders were required to be bonded. But the law also 
provided easy readjustment of these contracts in view of con- 
tinuously shifting Western populations. A town of 200 might 
become a city of 2,000 weeks later, then disappear forever. 
Readjustment of postal contracts was essential to match the 
shifting tides of population movement. 

All star route contracts were let through the Second Assistant 
Postmaster General, so a great deal depended on that man's 
integrity. The Second Assistant Postmaster General under Grant 
had been one Thomas W. Brady, who was, to say the least, 
not above suspicion. It was suspected that Brady had increased 
the compensation of many star route postal contractors who 
thereupon kicked back to Brady or his henchmen. Among 
these contractors had been a Senator from Arkansas, one 
Stephen W. Dorsey, a close friend of Brady's. That there had 
been collusion between these two Irishmen no one, not even 
Grant, doubted or denied. 

All this President Garfield appeared determined to prosecute 
as part of his pledge of reform. The star route frauds were 
above half a Tallinn dollars. 'They smelled to high heaven. 
They were a natural reform field for a man devoted to honest 
government. But, just as Garfield moved to prosecute, amidst 
harassing office seekers who sensed a chance of appointment 
outside ConHing's influence, the President was shot by one 
of them. 

On the second day of July, 1881, Garfield was to have left 
on a New England holiday trip and Blame was to have accom- 
panied him. They were deep in conversation as they ambled 
toward their train through Pennsylvania Station in Washington 
when a crazy man moved out from the crowd that had gathered 
to see them off. He fired two shots at point-blank range at the 


President, and said something along the order of: "I'm a Stal- 
wart and now Arthur is President!" 8 

For eleven humid weeks the warrior-executive fought for 
his life. Many times it appeared that he would win the exacting 
battle. He was only fifty years of age, possessed a strong, army- 
trained body, and lasted longer than he might have after a 
year or two of exhausting presidential drain. 

Vice-President Arthur was lobbying as usual for Roscoe 
Conkling in Albany when the news reached the State Capitol 
of the assassin's attempt. Arthur went into immediate seclusion. 

It was well that he did, for the assassin's implications had 
been damaging in the extreme. It appeared to some that Conk- 
ling's Stalwarts had engineered the whole thing, which wasn't 
true at all. But the public blamed Conkling just the same, and 
the death of Garfield ruined Conkling forever. An assassin's 
cry in Pennsylvania Station, Washington, had done in four 
seconds what the combined forces of decency, reform, and 
liberalism had failed to do in a lifetime of continuous political 

Robert Todd Lincoln, the President's son and Secretary of 
War in the Garfield Cabinet, reports that never once in the 
eighty days between Garfield's wounding and his death did 
the Garfield Cabinet meet to transact official business. 9 When 
they did occasionally and informally gather at the White House 
and nightly, later on, at Franklyn Cottage, they talked about 
nothing but the condition of the President. The business of 
governing the nation simply went unattended. No one paid the 
slightest attention to Chester A. Arthur. 

In those days, the New York Custom House had more 
than enough jobs to fill the patronage requirements of the most 
voracious political machine. In an era when a million dollars 
was a lot of money, the New York Customs did a $900,000,000 
business annually! This was a sum greater than the entire 

8. 'New "York Tribune, July 3, 1881. 

9. Robert Todd Lincoln's Cabinet notes and letters as preserved in 
the National Archives Building, Washington; see also Bess Furman, 
White House Profile (Indianapolis, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1951), 
pp. 231-37. 

Rises to the Occasion 109 

Federal budget; it stood to reason that some of the collectors 
made money on the side and that the man who ran the Custom 
House was a powerful and practical politician. 

Inside the City of New York, Chester Alan Arthur had, 
therefore, "become an acknowledged power in the Republican 
Party when his appointment as Collector of the Custom House 
had come from Grant. The Collector did not get a salary; he 
was paid a percentage of the customs fines he could collect, 
not to mention anything under the table. In the poorest year of 
his tenure Arthur had made $35,000 and in the best close to 
$50,000, an undoubtedly enormous sum in those days, equiva- 
lent to a million dollars a year income now, since there were 
no income taxes then. 

Arthur had learned, in 1872, that one of the richest importing 
firms in the country had been understating its customs values 
for quite a spell and was liable for $2,000,000 worth of for- 
feiture and fine. The company settled for a quarter of a million 
dollars. But, after the fine had been paid, the importer found 
that his undervaluations hadn't cost the Federal government 
nearly as much in lost duties as had been suggested in the law 
suit, yet the quarter million dollars had, by law, already been 
divided among those who had provided legal advice, Conkling 
among them, and top officers of the port. This was investigated 
by Congress and the upshot of the matter was to replace the 
Collector's percentage income with a fixed salary of $1,000 a 

All this apparently had had very little to do with Chet Arthur 
personally, for he was never mentioned in the scandal of what 
had happened to the quarter-million-dollar settlement, and in 
1875 Grant had reappointed him for four more years. Arthur 
had kept the pay rolls properly filled, which was his function 
in the Conkling machine, and it is certain that he never allowed 
the New York Custom House to remain understaffed for long. 
Indeed, the Republican machine collected a great deal of 
money from annual contributions by Customs workers hired 
with this clearly understood. War chests have been so filled 
by political machines since time began, and in perfect legality, 
if not always with the noblest motive. 


The commission appointed to study Arthur's case had found 
nothing except the items already mentioned, and little or 
nothing involving Arthur personally. But the report was very 
unfriendly, though the law, and not the man, was undoubtedly 
at fault, and Chet Arthur had gone flying out the front door 
to great hand-clapping among New York editors and Demo- 
crats, who believed anything of a Conkling man. 

Arthur, in all the time people witnessed against him, never 
once took the trouble to defend himself or his record or in 
any way tried to put the record straight. His seeming diffidence, 
his habit of playing politics for the game and not its rewards 
or policies explains a little of the deep mystery about him. He 
is probably our least-known President and he appears to have 
wanted it so, for he destroyed practically all his files on re- 

That no President has ever come to the White House with 
less training or reason for success than Arthur is to understate 
the situation grotesquely. Even Harry Truman, forced by 
circumstance to succeed at a day's notice a brilliant, dynamic 
President at the very climax of the greatest war in history, had 
no such albatross as Arthur carried about his fashionably 
cravatted neck. Among his own followers, Arthur's sudden rise 
to the greatest office within the gift of the American people 
caused such shock that one of them said on hearing the awful 
news: "Chet Arthur, President of the United States! Good 
God!!" 10 

The country felt precisely this way about it. A calamity of 
the greatest proportions, the fantastic twist of the wheel of for- 
tune stunned Republicans and nauseated Democrats. Here was 
an unfrocked politician whose very name meant corruption to 
many an American and to most of the country's editors. It 
would be a matter of time only, thought the country, before 
the Treasury would be subject to such havoc as the United 
States, now just over a century old, had never imagined pos- 
sible, not even under the outrageous wickedness of Grant's 
thieving henchmen. 

10. As reported by Levin and others from contemporary sources, 
none of which identify the shocked follower by name. 

Rises to the Occasion in 

If Arthur's honesty and methods as Collector of the New 
York Custom House were criteria (and the average man had 
no way of knowing that they were not a true reflection of 
Arthur's moral standards), the nation was doomed. The ugly 
word "impeachment" was on many lips. Arthur's incompetence 
was manifest. 

To make it worse, the Garfield assassin's cry kept bouncing 
around in the minds of those who hoped fervently that postwar 
Republican corruption had at last been corralled with the 
defeat of the Stalwarts and the rise of Republican liberalism. 

When Chet Arthur, the dandy from New York, came to the 
White House to inspect it before moving in, he said: "I will 
not live in a house looking this way. If Congress doesn't make 
an appropriation, I will go ahead and have it done and pay for 
it out of my own pocket. I will not live in a house like this." 

Just how the White House then looked is described by a 
Garfield visitor early that year of 1881: 

The place is now full of modern abominations in uphol- 
stery and garish gilding, and all the rooms look staring, pre- 
tentious and Frenchy. The old port-wine colored mahogany 
sofas and chairs which were in the State Parlours in Lin- 
coln's time were better than anything that has come in their 
place. At least they were quiet and dignified. 

Arthur was true to his word. Between Garfield's death on 
September 19 and Christmas of that year, President Arthur 
had the place done over by the artist, Louis Comfort Tiffany, 
a name which already meant to New Yorkers taste and jewels, 
gold and elegance. 

Every evening President Arthur would leave the granite 
mansion of his friend, Senator John P. Jones of Nevada, and 
inspect what had been done in the White House. Twenty-four 
wagonloads of Junky furniture, bric-a-brac, claptrap, and new 
items Arthur didn't like were removed and sold at auction. 
Washington society dearly loved the tales of this house cleaning 
by the dandy new President. One wit said: "Arthur's trap has 
caught the rat that ate the suit of clothes of President Lincoln." 


Arthur would go from room to room altering to Ms own 
taste. Colonel H. W. Crook, a member of the White House 
staff from Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt, reports that the new 
President would issue enough orders and tag enough discards 
to keep the workmen busy all next day. 

When the redecorating was all over, Arthur still didn't like 
It and tried to get Congress to build a new executive mansion 
across Lafayette Park, where the Hays Adams Hotel is now. 
But nothing came of it. 

Following is Tiffany's own report of some of the proceedings: 

In the East Room, we only did the ceiling, which was 
done in silver, with a design in various tones of ivory. The 
Blue Room, or Robin's Egg Room as it's sometimes called 
was decorated in robin's egg blue for the main color, with 
ornaments in handpressed paper, touched out in ivory, grad- 
ually deepening as the ceiling was approached. In the Red 
Room, the walls were red with a frieze in which the motif 
was an interlacing of a design embodying both eagles and 
flags. The ceiling was in old gold. The opalescent glass 
screen in the hall, which reached from the floor to the ceil- 
ing, had also a motif of eagles and flags, interlaced in the 
Arabian method. 

The glass screen, originally designed to give President Arthur 
and his family privacy, was long a fixture in the White House 
and the cause of wonder for every visitor who could find no 
break in a wall of gkss in which a door would suddenly open. 

President Arthur also put in the first elevator and the first 
White House plumbing, two bathrooms. Up to then, all the 
plumbing had been, as they say, outdoors, or, to be more pre- 
cise, by portable chinaware. 

When Mrs. James G. Blaine, wife of the Garfield Secretary 
of State, dined later in the White House she said, perhaps 
cattily, that the dinner was "extremely elegant, hardly a trace 
of the old White House taint being perceptible anywhere, the 
flowers, the damask, the silver, the attendants, all showing the 
latest style and an abandon in expense and taste." This men- 
tion of "White House taint" was revealing. She and everyone 
else knew how painful the eighty days of Garfield's lingering 

Rises to the Occasion 113 

had been through the dreadful heat of a Washington summer. 

In July, Arthur had been summoned from New York to stand 
by in Washington while the hero Garfield faded slowly. He 
had gone at once to the White House to see Mrs. Garfield, and 
the Cabinet had happened to be there at the time. When the 
Vice-President had stood at the door of the Cabinet Room, not 
one of Garfield's choices rose to greet him, nor was he asked in. 
The Garfield Cabinet simply stared at him like so many cobras 
upon a mongoose. While he stood at the door of the Cabinet 
Room another visitor came up and the ice was broken; other- 
wise, Arthur might well have been left outside without a word. 
As it was, perfunctory greetings were exchanged, and soon 
thereafter Garfield improved to such a degree that Arthur re- 
turned to New York, only to be sworn in as President suddenly 
at midnight on September 19, 1881, at his luxurious home on 
Lexington Avenue. 

Here's the way Arthur's latent champion, Elihu Root, saw 
his plight: 11 

Surely no more lonely and pathetic figure was ever seen 
assuming the powers of government. He had no people 
behind him, for Garfield, not he, was the people's choice; he 
had no party behind him, for the dominant faction of his 
party hated his name were enraged by his advancement, 
and distrusted his motives. He had not even his own faction 
behind him, for he already knew that discharge of his duties 
would not accord with the ardent desires of their partisan- 
ship, and that disappointment and estrangement lay before 
him. He was alone. He was bowed down by the weight of 
fearful responsibility and crushed to earth by the feeling, 
exaggerated but not unfounded, that he took up his heavy 
burden surrounded by dislike, suspicion, distrust and con- 
demnation, as an enemy of the martyred Garfield and the 
beneficiary of his murder. Deep and settled melancholy 
possessed him; almost despair overwhelmed him. He went 
to power walking through the valley of the shadow of death 
and ascended the steps to the throne as one who is accused 
goes to trial. 

11. Elihu Root Papers and manuscript collection, New York Public 


So gloomy was the new Chief Executive, in fact, that he took 
the precaution of sending himself a letter which contained a 
Presidential Proclamation calling the Senate into special session 
to elect a President of the United States pro tempore in the 
event of his own assassination en route to the White House. If 
he should die, the nation could go on because Chet Arthur had 
set it up legally with selfless forethought. 

On September 22 in the Presidential Room of the Capitol a 
second swearing-in took place. Garfield's whole antagonistic 
Cabinet were present. Chief Justice Waite administered the 
new oath of office with less than enthusiasm. 

The new Cabinet was Arthur's first task. One by one he re- 
placed Garfield's men, Secretary of State Elaine being one of 
the last to go. This shifting of the Chief Executive's official 
family took the better part of what was left of 1881. What 
astonished the country most, during this period, was the ab- 
sence of Roscoe Conkling from any post at all, unofficial or 
official. Cronies simply weren't being appointed, though Arthur 
did privately offer his old political boss a seat on the Supreme 
Court which Conkling haughtily refused. They were never 
close thereafter. 

To the utter amazement of everyone, including the press, 
the man whose reputation for fraud and corruption smelled 
worse than any President in United States history suddenly de- 
clared himself in favor of civil service reform, got the bills 
started again in Congress, and eventually signed the great Civil 
Service Act which put an end to the abuses Grant had allowed 
to creep into Jackson's spoils system. 

In subsequent months, President Arthur refused point blank 
to fill the New York Custom House (scene of his alleged 
crimes) with Stalwarts. Senator Conkling, soured on the new 
President for this and other imagined slights, was soon referring 
to Chester Alan Arthur as "His Accidency," 12 and even former 
President Grant broke with him on grounds that he had re- 
pudiated Grant's cronies by ignoring their alleged patronage 

12. ArcMves, Museum of the City of New York. 

Rises to the Occasion 115 

His own Cabinet came eventually, only one of them being a 
Garfield holdover Robert Todd Lincoln. 

When the delicate matter of high or low tariffs arose, Arthur 
anticipated the twentieth century by suggesting reciprocal 
trade treaties in the New Deal pattern. These never came to 
pass in his time, but he was on sound footing, and only special 
interests in gigantic industrial lobbies on The Hill defeated 
such a far-seeing policy. 

President Arthur did, however, manage to set up a Tariff 
Commission which dealt with an annual surplus of $80,000,000 
or more piling up in the Treasury as a result of the continuance 
of high Civil War tariffs. 

He also convinced both houses of Congress that it wasn't 
good sense or economy to rebuild Civil War battleships; and 
he was truly the founder of the modern United States Navy 
which lasted until the age of air. John Spencer Bassett says of 
him: 13 

Before he became President, Arthur was a typical partisan 
of the Conkling group, a friend of the spoilsman and an 
opponent of reform. Called to the Presidency by the tragedy 
of July, 1881, he seemed to pass through a transformation 
and stood out as another kind of man. He took up the reins 
of office quietly, he managed them with fairness, and he 
went through the period of his power to the general satis- 
faction even of the reformers. 

The death of a President by the act of a disappointed 
office seeker called popular attention to the evil effects of 
the spoils system. Suddenly it became possible to pass a bill 
of reform. The Pendleton Civil Service Act of 1883 provided 
for competitive examinations, a Civil Service Commission 
to supervise the execution of the law, and the elimination of 
partisan appointments what was known as the "classified 
serviced By 1883 the number was 13,924, or about one- 
eleventh of the whole government payroll of the nation. 

Although Pendleton was a Democrat, the Pendleton Act had 
the support of more Republicans than Democrats. By making 

13. John Spencer Bassett, The Pageant of America, Vol. IX, Makers of 
a New Nation (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1928), pp. 126-27. 


it impossible to remove officials without cause, the persons 
then in office, chiefly Republicans, would be protected if the 
party lost the next election. The Democrats carried Congress 
in 1882, and hoped to win the Presidency in 1884 for the first 
time since the Civil War. Therefore the Democratic Party had 
threatened to delay the Pendleton Act. 

But President Arthur stood fast. He upheld the Civil Service 
Commission throughout his administration and placed nearly 
2,000 employees under the protection of its rules. He laid the 
groundwork for Grover Cleveland, who completed the job of 
dignifying Civil Service and modifying what his executive 
predecessor, Andrew Jackson, had invented. 

President Arthur vetoed pork-barrel rivers-and-harbors bills 
which were promptly passed over his veto, but the people and 
the editorial writers in particular began to take to his honesty 
and courage. He was easily efficient, a good administrator 
who could delegate authority. Soon the antagonism began to 
fade before his political fairness and personal candor. When it 
came time for Ms re-election many common people liked him, 
and many uncommon, too. Mark Twain, for instance, wrote to 
the Chicago Daily News: 1 * "I am but one of 55,000,000; still, 
in the opinion of this one-fifty-five millionth of the country's 
population, it would be hard to better President Arthur's Ad- 
ministration. But don't decide until you hear from the rest." 

In the White House, Chet Arthur and his family conducted 
themselves as few other presidential families have: in abso- 
lute decorum and taste. When his passion for clothes became a 
whispering campaign against his renomination, he did not 
deny, as Mrs. Elaine had charged, that he had ordered twenty- 
five new coats from his tailor early in 1882 for White House 
functions. Catty Mrs. Blaine kept insisting, perhaps with self- 
interest, that all of Arthur's ambitions centered on his stomach 
and other social aspects of the Presidency, but not on its bur- 
dens. He never denied that he found it pleasant to have about 
him flowers and wine and excellent food, or that it was satisfy- 
ing to stroll with a lady on one's arm and a quotation from 
Dickens or Thackeray on one's lips. Nor did he repudiate the 

14. Files of the Chicago Daily News. 

Rises to the Occasion 117 

French chef who had served him well in New York and now 
brought the first really good food to White House tables. 

Faultless in dress, immaculately turned out on every occa- 
sion, Chester A. Arthur and his famous sideburns were kept 
in perfect trim by the first genuine f ourteen-carat White House 
valet, another mark against him when re-election came up. He 
had thought he would win (seeming certain of renomination, 
as most Presidents had been) on his record alone and the 
growing editorial praise for his honest term. Yet he was not so 
honored, one of the few Presidents repudiated by his own 

Both the Half-Breeds and the Stalwarts had done their best 
to disown Arthur from the hour of his Presidency. Reformers 
remained wary to the end of his term because his record simply 
impelled them to wariness. His demand for civil service reform 
heartened some, editors especially. But there was always that 
doubt, as there was to be later with a Vice-President named 
Richard Nixon. (No matter how much Nixon seemed to have 
reformed, there was always his alleged record in the Helen 
Gahagan Douglas Senatorial contest and his rationalizing of 
liberalism. ) With Arthur, the fact that the office had reformed 
him completely, that he had truly risen to the occasion, was 
hard to believe even when the public saw it before its own 

The Stalwarts did not like Arthur because he gave them 
little patronage, and also they were tired of the repudiated 
Conkling leadership with which they (wrongly) associated 
the new Arthur. The term "His Accidency" became common 
talk, which did little to help Arthur's reputation, whatever 
progress he might make as a human being or Chief Execu- 

He employed no bodyguard and walked freely about Wash- 
ington, to the consternation of the Secret Service. He drove 
the swankiest dark-green landau in Washington, pulled by 
mahogany-colored geldings with blankets monograrnmed "A." 
Huge flower orders came weekly from New York to augment 
the meager White House conservatory output. Every morning 


he placed a bouquet before the photograph of his dead wife, 
Ellen Herndon, daughter o the naval hero William Lewis 
Hemdon. She had succumbed suddenly to pneumonia just 
before his nomination for Vice-President. To this day a stained 
glass window in her name decorates old St. John's Episcopal 
Church, directly across from the Hay Adams and within sight 
of the White House over Lafayette Square. 

Naturally, when tales of fancy spending for flowers, elegant 
food, French chefs, mahogany horses, dandy coats, striped 
pants, and lush parties were circulated by Elaine's men they 
somehow became charged to public funds, not private. Mrs. 
Elaine once said: "If he [James G. Elaine] cannot himself 
be President, no more can any other Republican without his 
assent." This was pathetically so, and the "continental liar 
from the State of Maine" had not the slightest intention of 
supporting President Arthur in 1884. 

Rising young Congressman Joe Cannon, though a fellow 
party member, put it best when the Republican National Con- 
vention of 1884 repudiated the President of the United States. 
Said Cannon: "Arthur was defeated by his trousers." (In 
similar fashion had an earlier President who liked lovely things 
been defeated, though renominated by his own party. Martin 
Van Euren had lost because he had ordered some gold spoons 
to raise the tone of the White House table. ) 

The Forty-seventh Congress had been the first in six years to 
have Republican majorities in both houses. President Arthur's 
requests to it had been very simple, and on the whole more 
along the reform taclc than the reactionary. He had asked the 
Forty-seventh Congress for a tariff revision, for funds to reno- 
vate the Navy, for money to create a modern merchant marine, 
for U. S. troops to deal with the Indians in the new Western 
territory, for a better presidential succession statute, for re- 
duced excise taxes, a balanced budget with a small surplus, and 
for a strong civil service law. 

To read this presidential message must have been a shock 
to the American public, for it was plainly the work of a con- 
vert to political honesty, decency in office, and an end to some 
of the nation's fears of the most potentially corrupt administra- 

Rises to the Occasion 119 

tion the country had ever seen. Arthur the politician had de- 
parted; Arthur the President had risen to the occasion, and in 
doing so had molded further the dignity and prestige of the 
highest elective office in the civilized world. 

But at the next biennial election, the Democrats swept the 
country and early in 1883 took control of the House again: 
with it went Arthur's last lingering hope of making an endur- 
ing record as President of the United States. Between that 
date and March 4, 1885, ^ e Democrats did very little but hold 
Congressional investigations designed to bring before the next 
presidential campaign the stench of unchallenged Republican- 
ism and Stalwart corruption. Arthur had no chance in the 
circumstances, and the fact that his naturally florid complexion 
gave constant reminder that he must be a drunkard as well as 
a political thief did not help his cause. Even the flowers he set 
daily before his dead wife's picture somehow came in the 
public mind to be an alliance with one of the Secretary of 
State's daughters, many years his junior. Now he was a repro- 
bate as well. 

Political party control invariably gets settled in the state 
capitols, usually while the legislature is in session. But the 
struggle at Albany had left no doubt whatsoever of the stench 
inside the Republican Party and its undoubted effect on the 
occupant of the White House, an unfrocked politico from the 
rocks and crevices of the New York Custom House. It is little 
wonder that the country gave the Democrats almost two-thirds 
control of the House in 1883. 

It is little wonder, too, that James G. Blaine should emerge 
as the President's chief rival for control of the Republican 
Party, for Blaine had little else to do, now that he was an ex- 
Secretary of State and a thoroughgoing Arthur-Conkling hater. 
Blaine's every act now involved the nomination for President 
in 1884. Coming into the convention of 1884, President Arthur 
stood for nomination on his record, but the reform element 
combined with Blame's Half -Breeds and many an old Stalwart 
now thoroughly disenchanted with Conkling and his Albany 
odors. So even on the first ballot Arthur was second to Blaine, 
who won on the fourth. 


It is conceivable that Chester Alan Arthur was not only an 
accident in the Presidency but literally ineligible for the office. 
In 1884, the, year Arthur would have been up for re-election 
had his own party not disowned him, one A. P. Hinman pub- 
lished a tiny booklet in New York attempting to prove that 
Arthur had not been born in the United States, as was claimed, 
but in reality came into the world beyond the Canadian border 
of Vermont. Hinman's little known book is entitled "How a 
British Subject Became President of the United States," 15 un- 
deniably a political tract inspired by the forces of James G. 
Blaine, who would have done (and did) just about anything 
to seize the presidential nomination. 

The Constitution requires that the President and the Vice- 
President shall be natural born citizens. Article II reads: "No 
person except a natural born citizen . . . shall be eligible to 
the office of President," and the Twelfth Amendment reads: 
"But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of Presi- 
dent shall be eligible to that of Vice President of the United 

The question raised by Hinman at the urging of Blaine or 
Conkling or Sherman (or any one of a dozen jealous politicians 
of the time) was whether Arthur, being in their eyes Canadian- 
bom, was legally eligible for the office of Vice-President under 
Article XII of the Amendments. If he was ineligible for Vice- 
President he was, under the Constitution, ineligible to succeed 

Hinman's book claimed that Arthur, when nominated for the 
Vice-Presidency, was, at first, unable to name his birthplace. 
After diligent search, during what was said to be a fishing trip 
to Canada immediately following his nomination, Arthur found 
no existing record of his Canadian birth; so he was, in Hinman's 
words, "safe in naming some out-of-the-way place in the United 
States." He chose Fairfield, Vermont, where a deceased brother 
had been born. 

15. A. P. Hinman, "How a British Subject Became President of the 
United States** (New York, 1884), now in the possession of Theodore 
Carlson, Wilton, Connecticut. 

Rises to the Occasion 121 

The encyclopedias and almanacs list the birth date and birth- 
place of the twenty-first President as October 5, 1830, and 
either "Vermont" or "Fairfield, Vermont/' The fact is that there 
is no known record of President Arthur's birth, either in Ver- 
mont or anywhere else, but that's not surprising. There are no 
official records of the births of most Americans who were born 
in the early nineteenth century. Records, when they were kept 
at all, had a way of disappearing and dissolving in frontier 
America. Nobody cared, for the most part, anyway. The family 
knew their child had been born, relatives knew, the town knew, 
and it didn't make much difference whether an ill-paid, part- 
time records clerk in northern New Engknd took the trouble 
to put down a vital statistic for posterity, the clerk being un- 
able to foresee which baby would grow up to be President. 

In the month of October, 1830 ( when Chester was supposed 
to have been born), William Arthur, his father, obtained em- 
ployment as a teacher in Stanbridge, Canada, across the border 
from Vermont. Mrs. Arthur did not accompany her husband 
but remained in North Fairfield, Vermont, where a son was 
born in November, 1830, who was named, according to Mr. 
Himnan's documents, Chester Abell Arthur in honor of Dr. 
Chester Abell, a boon companion of William Arthur and who 
attended Mrs. Arthur's confinement and delivery. The child 
died in the summer of 1831 at Burlington while Mrs. Arthur 
was on a visit to friends. 

The unofficial prosecutor's charge is, therefore, that Chester 
Alan Arthur, whenever he was born or where, took his dead 
brother's birth certificate as his own because he himself was 
Canadian-born, therefore ineligible to become President of the 
United States or, for that matter, even Vice-President. 

Records indicate that on September 5, 1845, Chester Alan 
Arthur matriculated at Union College, entering the sophomore 
class and stating that he was then sixteen years of age. He was 
graduated in July, 1848. Mr. Himnan's tract claims that this is 
a true statement of his age and birth. It would place his birth 
date somewhere in the neighborhood of 1828-1829, at which 
time Mrs. Arthur did bear a son named William Chester Alan 
Arthur (Hinman says), but not in North Fairfield, Vermont. 


Mrs. Arthur's parents liad lived some years at Dunham Flats, 
Quebec, her childhood home, and she was visiting neighboring 
Dunham Flats when her eldest son caine into the world, if we 
are to believe Hinman's tract. The exact birth date isn't secure. 

But the eldest Arthur boy, William (Chester Alan Arthur is 
said to have dropped this name because it caused confusion 
with his father), was born either March 16 or 18, 1828; his 
grandfather remembered saying at the time that William, Jr., 
was lucky he came a day too early or a day too late, otherwise 
he would have been called Patrick, having considerable Irish 

Later, during Mr. Hinman's exhaustive inquiry on local 
ground, many friends, relatives, and neighbors remembered 
the oldest boy, called "Chet," on the sidewalks of WiUiston, 
Vermont, being trundled along in a hand cart in 1833 at the 
age of five, which would square with the birth date. Precisely 
why the Arthur family, or more exactly Chester A. Arthur, 
should go to the elaborate trouble of trying to get the public to 
believe he was his dead brother, Chester Abell Arthur, isn't 
clear except to verify Hinman's accusation. 

Hinman of course claims that Chet Arthur knew he was 
Canadian-bom (of American parents) and, when necessity 
required it, he simply took the Vermont birth certification of 
his dead brother whose name his closely resembled. 16 

But Hinman's complicated and thoroughly documented 
hymn of hate will always appear beside the point. The Consti- 
tution words the birth requirement "natural born citizen.'* It 
doesn't say "notice bom." It may weE have meant, in spite of 
partisan opinions on the subject from time to time, precisely 
what it has come legally to mean when two American citizens 
have a child on foreign soil that the child is truly an Ameri- 
can citizen. 

So, whether (William) Chester Alan Arthur was delivered at 
the home of his grandparents in Dunham Flats, Quebec, 
Canada, on or near St Patrick's Day, 1828, or in Fairfield, Ver- 
mont, on October 5, 1830, may not be terribly important, 
though a case of this sort has never yet been brought to the 

16. Ibid. 

Rises to the Occasion 123 

Supreme Court for final interpretation of the wording o 
Article II. This fugitive semantic will undoubtedly arise one 
day when an American child born on foreign soil gets a major 
party nomination to the Presidency or Vice-Presidency. Arthur's 
case is closed and nothing the Supreme Court or anyone else 
can do will alter the fact that, during his lifetime he was, by 
the people who had elected him, accepted as President of the 
United States. 

What does matter to the office of the Presidency is that a 
man of undoubted slack reputation and dubious association 
was thrust by fate into the White House for almost a full four- 
year term, yet so comported himself that the dignity of the 
office was exalted. "His Accidency" Chet Arthur rose to the 
occasion, despite his past and the fears of Ms constituents, and 
in so doing molded the Presidency as other Presidents had 
before hfun or would do again in the shadows ahead. 

Grover Cleveland 

THE PRESIDENTIAL election of 1884 between James G. 
Elaine, the Plumed Knight" of the Republican Party, and 

Grover Cleveland, young hero Governor from New York and 
the Democrats* latest postwar tope, was undoubtedly the 
dirtiest of all U. S. quadrennials. This is saying a good deal. 
Andrew Jackson weathered merciless sknders against his 
beloved wife. Franklin D. Roosevelt was involved in at least 
two of the vilest slime-throwing campaigns this country's ballot 
has known. But Elaine-Cleveland outranks them all. 

In the first place, the Republican Party early uncovered the 
fact that Grover Cleveland had undoubtedly sired an illegiti- 
mate child in his youth, which Cleveland tacitly admitted. 
Then the Democrats dug up what American history calls the 
"Mulligan letters/' on the back of one of which the unfortu- 
nate Republican candidate had had the witlessness to write 
"Bum this letter!." 

Thereafter the manure flew in Herculean proportions. The 
^Plumed Knight/' coining as he did after the besmirched Grant 
and the unlucky Arthur, had campaigned for the nomination on 
reform grounds. But his penchant for gaining payments and 
commissions from unscrupulous and ambitious promoters who 
wished to use his political office to insure their favors was 
thoroughly aired and debated. The Democrats wrote a little 
jingle still familial to most school children: 

Blame, Blaine, James G. Blaine, 

The continental liar from the State of Maine! 



Dignifies the Presidential Veto 

The Republicans, not to be outdone, wrote a ditty of their 


Ma, ma, where's my pa? 

He's goto.' to the White House, ha, ha, ha! 

Unfortunately for Elaine, the careless recipient of the most 
damaging of the Mulligan letters did not fulfill Elaine's request. 
Blaine also had appeared at a fabulous millionaire dinner at 
Delmonico's, soon known on the Main Street of America as 
"Belshazzar's Feast." His unsavory connection with the male- 
factors of great wealth, as a Roosevelt was later to call them, 
damned him with a large segment of the intelligentsia and the 
working class, especially the important new foreign-horn elec- 
torate now flooding U. S. cities. 

To make Elaine's case worse, an unthinking Republican 
clergyman called the Democratic Party the party of "Rum, 
Romanism, and Rebellion.* 7 Rebellion was now a generation 
dead and the South bitterly resented the bloody shirt being 
waved in political debate. "Romanism** offended the enormous 
Irish Catholic population of New York City and helped Elaine 
lose that pivotal state by only a thousand votes out of hundreds 
of thousands. By losing New York, Elaine lost the Presidency. 

Cleveland had, to say the least, liked a drink now and then, 
and when he tacitly admitted parenthood to an illegitimate 
child of the days of his wild oats he had given to the Victorian 
households of the time their most powerful political weapon. 


Sex just wasn't nice in the late nineteenth century. But his 
transgression had come to light sufficiently early in the presi- 
dential campaign to be explained and discounted. Also, he was 
painfully honest about his sins. Elaine wasn't, because he 
couldn't be. 

When James G. Elaine had been relieved as Secretary of 
State under President Arthur and replaced by Frederick 
Frelinghuysen, a far more conservative statesman, Elaine was 
given all the time in the world to pkn and work for his own 
presidential nomination in 1884. As Secretary he had been 
pretty much of a jingoist, and had especially given Great 
Britain a difficult time, much to the delight of the American 
press. The country was feeling its oats, it was adolescent, but 
moving toward manhood; it liked Elaine's bold approach to 
foreign affairs. Frelinghuysen's unexciting three and a half 
years gave Elaine, therefore, the best possible ammunition to 
fire at President Arthur, who would inevitably be Elaine's chief 
antagonist for the upcoming Republican nomination. 

Elaine also began to write a two-volume biographical work 
called Twenty Years of Congress which was sold at private 
subscription (a great many politically minded men coughed up 
large checks for their copies) and gave Elaine a greater in- 
come between 1881 and 1884 than any other public figure 
except a President. He made speeches and was paid for them, 
and he was consulted on legal matters and received fees which 
went into the campaign fund: object the 1884 nomination for 

Elaine lived in a house across the street from the state capitol 
in Augusta, Maine, and the Republican world beat a path to 
his door in those three years. 1 President Arthur's stands on 
various issues were debated on the floor of Congress and in 
the public press, but they were usually first aired in the Elaine 
parlor. Arthur, for example, wanted to apply a not inconsider- 
able surplus to reducing the huge Civil War debt, which ran 
into the billions, and to replacing obsolete Civil War ships 

i. Peter Levin, Seven ~by Chance (New York, Farrar, Straus and 
Company, 1948), p. 174- 

Dignifies the Presidential Veto 127 

with new designs. Blaine went back to Henry Clay's theory of 
distributing excess tax receipts to the several states. He was 
against lowering those wartime tariffs which were flooding the 
Treasury with an embarrassment of riches. 

Blaine never talked issues for long, however. The candid 
conversation almost always switched to personalities and 1884. 
John Alexander Logan 2 seems to have been promised the vice- 
presidential nomination for assuring he could deliver Illinois 
at the convention and the subsequent election. Tom Platt, who 
had been caught in a hotel bed with a lady of easy virtue and 
had as a result lost out in New York, came back on the Re- 
publican scene by waving a banner for Maine's Blaine, the 
"Plumed Knight." 

By summer, 1884, therefore, the upshot of the matter was 
that Arthur had lost any chance of renomination. Coming to 
the convention on his amazing record for progressive ad- 
ministration, Arthur could nevertheless not quite match the 
more practical mathematics of one of the most carefully laid, 
long-term campaigns for a Republican presidential nomination. 
No other matches it in U. S. history except Thomas E. Dewey's 
^incessant campaigning between 1936 and 1948. 

No hour of a day went by without some action being taken, 
usually in Augusta, with that end in view. Arthur had, it is 
true, Southern delegations which could be bought overnight, 
and he did fairly well with Republican businessmen and the 
banking interests, who had been amazed at his clean White 
House record. A few Stalwarts backed him still, but Grant had 
become embittered at Arthur's independence and unwilling- 
ness to favor the former President-hero's cronies. 3 

The reform crowd, hypocritical as always, repudiated Arthur 
despite his splendid conversion. A public letter reminded the 

2. James G. Blaine and John Alexander Logan may have been a 
balanced team politically as the Republican ticket of 1884, but they 
were bitter personal enemies. One rhyme of the day, in a campaign 
o doggerel, put their partnership this way: 

We never speak as we pass by 
Me to Blaine nor Blaine to I. 

3. Levin, op. cit. 9 p. 175. 


party that "Guiteau [GarfielcTs assassin] was the original 
Arthur man." 4 Two top reform Senators from New England 
had been turned down on collectorship appointments when 
Arthur had put a nonpolitician into the port of Boston, and 
he had vetoed a juicy rivers and harbors bill smelling to heaven 
of pork. These reformers had been aided and abetted by a 
wild-eyed young man with a pince-nez on a string, a bristling 
mustache, energy to burn, and a noisy high voice which he 
used at top volume while standing upon a chair. This young 
man's name was Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. He came from New 
York, was son of the man who had once been selected to re- 
place Chester Alan Arthur as Collector of the New York Cus- 
tom House. All of these reform politicians, young Roosevelt 
included, descended upon Arthur, without overmuch reason 
considering his administrative marks, and gave the nomina- 
tion nod to James G. Elaine. 

President Arthur, therefore, had no chance. He played with 
a stacked deck. After the second ballot, Arthur's support fell 
rapidly away; on the fourth it was all Elaine, much to the 
disgust of Grant's and Conkling's Stalwarts and the just news- 
paper editors of the day. Arthur, loyal organization man to his 
buffed finger tips, gracefully gave in, made a speech offering 
his unquestioned support of die new nominee, and congratu- 
lated Elaine before tie multitude. It was Elaine's shining hour, 
and Mrs. Elaine's too. Few political wives, except perhaps 
Florence Harding and Mary Todd Lincoln, have been as am- 
bitious for their husbands. And Harriet Stanwood Elaine might 
well have been First Lady had it not been for the diabolically 
damaging Mulligan letters. 

James Gillespie Elaine, seven years Cleveland's senior, was 
"himself only fifty-four when nominated for President. This 
made it one of the youngest elections in American history up to 
that time, and Cleveland one of the youngest Presidents, at 
forty-seven. Elaine was a Pennsylvanian by birth and had 
studied kw while teaching at the Pennsylvania Institute for 
the Blind. When he was twenty-four, he had gone to Augusta, 

4- Ibid. 

Dignifies the Presidential Veto 129 

Maine, where he became an influential editor by buying an in- 
terest in the Kennebec Journal. When the Republican Party 
arose from the ashes of Whiggism, Blaine helped organize it 
in Maine and was delegate to the first Republican National 
Convention just before die Civil War. He remained Republi- 
can leader of Maine most of his Me. 

At thirty-three, he was elected to the House of Representa- 
tives where he stayed until 1876; his last six years he was 
Speaker of the House. In the House he became a close friend of 
James A. Garfield of Ohio and other Westerners whose support 
he would need if he were to run for national office, his lifelong 
ambition. Opposing Grant on more than one issue, Blaine could 
not help become the mortal enemy of Roscoe Conkling of New 
York, who thought Grant should have not only two but three 
terms as President and detested anyone who spoke otherwise. 
Conkling's Stalwarts were, therefore, natural political oppo- 
nents of Elaine's Half-Breeds, a name contemptuously be- 
stowed upon them by Grant's followers, meaning that they 
were neither Republicans nor Democrats, but mongrel politi- 

With the assassination of Garfield and the assumption of 
Arthur (and assumption is as good a word as any, in the cir- 
cumstances), the Republican Party had become more and more 
divided against itself. One of the reasons for its difficulties was 
the 1884 presidential nomination of James G. Blaine, who was 
Garfield's Secretary of State and later became Benjamin Har- 
rison's also. (History reports with the accuracy of 20-20 hind- 
sight that Blaine was an excellent Secretary of State, one of the 
very few really top Secretaries of State in the history of Ameri- 
can foreign relations. But he proved to be a highly vulnerable 
candidate for President) 

The chief reasons for his remarkable vulnerability were the 
"Mulligan letters," but of course there was more to it than that 
The flaw lay in Elaine's very nature. Ambition seared him, 
gnawed at his vitals, made him, (and Mrs. Blaine) vindictive 
and stupidly arrogant when they should have been humble and 
compassionate. The voters were not fooled. 


These letters were so called because one James Mulligan of 
Boston had kept some books for Warren Fisher, Jr., of the 
Little Rock & Fort Smith Railroad, and still held much of 
Elaine's correspondence. The letters Mulligan possessed and 
eventually publicized made it painfully clear to the public 
that Blaine, after having granted favors for the railroad, called 
railroad officials' attention to his favors and soon after received 
the privilege of selling the road's bonds for a secret and gener- 
ous commission. 

The selection of Blaine, with his dubious railroad fees, his 
private belief that the spoils system was infinitely superior to 
Civil Service, his propensity for waving the bloody shirt, sent 
many Republican liberals, editors, and independents out of the 
party and into the arms of Cleveland. Carl Schurz bolted, 
Henry Ward Beecher bolted. President Eliot and most of the 
Harvard faculty publicly condemned the author of the Mulli- 
gan letters and supported Cleveland. 

Old and less sensational Mulligan letters had already been 
surveyed and discounted through Congressional hearings. 
When the Democratic hierarchy went back to them at the 
outset of the 1884 campaign, many thought it a mistake to 
revive so dead a horse. But the animal was far from dead. New 
Mulligan letters were soon made public from the apparently 
inexhaustible files of the Little Rock line. Blaine's disclaimer 
in the Kennebec Journal, wherein he stated that there wasn't a 
word in these letters not entirely consistent with the "most 
scrupulous integrity and honor," didn't cut ice with discerning 
voters, though many a Republican editor either suppressed 
the letters or gave misleading summaries of their contents. 

One Blaine letter had a particularly stunning effect. For 
greater secrecy, the letter had been mailed to the Parker House 
in Boston and Blaine had then telegraphed an old business 
associate to pick it up there, though he knew full well that the 
associate lived at the Commonwealth Hotel. The letter enclosed 
the draft of a letter Blaine wanted the associate to write and 
sign, exonerating Blaine. Then Blaine signed his own warrant: 
"Regard this letter as strictly confidential. Do not show it to 
anyone.'* And on the back were the words: "Burn this letter!" 

Dignifies tJie Presidential Veto 131 

Reformers fell upon the letter with joy and delight. 5 Carl 
Schurz, liis keen German mind functioning at top performance, 
gave a series of speeches as unrelenting and merciless as the 
logic of Elaine's misdeeds. There wasn't the slightest doubt by 
the time he had finished that Elaine had used his Speakership 
to multiply his own railroad interests and had profited hand- 
somely from them. 

One speech Schurz made in Brooklyn on August 5, 1884, was 
so searching and sarcastically logical that Elaine was forced to 
sue him for libel, but, of course, the suit never came to trial. 
The Nation and Harper's Weekly followed Schurz's lead, and 
soon the country's intellectuals were almost wholly in Cleve- 
land's camp, and a winning camp it proved to be. 

Grover Cleveland's first name was Stephen; Grover was his 
middle name. He was born in Caldwell, New Jersey, the son of 
a poorly paid Presbyterian minister, and once considered the 
ministry as his own career. Law lured him, however,, and he 
practiced it from 1859 to 1881, beginning when he was twenty- 
two years old. In this period he was assistant district attorney 
and sheriff. He became Mayor of Buffalo in 1881 and his great 
reform administration soon attracted national attention in a 
time when the magic word "reform* 7 was on every conscious 
voter's tongue, and with good reason. 

The New York State Democratic leader, Dan! Manning, 
early saw qualities in Grover Cleveland that would make him a 
fine vote-getter in New York State, for Cleveland had given the 
City of Buffalo no lick-and-a-promise cleansing, but a drastic 
reform which had earned Cleveland the title of the "Veto 
Mayor." Elected Governor of New York, Cleveland kept right 
on vetoing. He battled Tammany Hall to a standstill, incurring 
the cheerless wrath of one John Kelly, New York City's Demo- 
cratic boss. In the subsequent battle for political control of 
the Democratic delegation in New York State, Cleveland won 
out. The Democratic delegation to the 1884 National Conven- 
tion was then Grover Cleveland's. 

5, Allan Nevins, Grover Cleveland, a Study in Courage (New York, 
Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc., 1932), pp. 162-65. 


Teddy Roosevelt had been trying to reform the municipal 
government of New York and received Cleveland's full co- 
operation, though Roosevelt was a Republican and Cleveland a 
Democrat. This helped Cleveland's popularity with Republican 
and independent voters whom any Democratic candidate for 
President had to win over following twenty-four consecutive 
years of Republican presidential victories. In those days the 
Democrats were a distinct minority. 

Cleveland was, therefore, a national figure by the time the 
Republicans had assembled to select their presidential candi- 
date. The Republicans did Cleveland, the man whose name 
was synonymous with reform, quick political service by nam- 
ing James G. Elaine as their standard-bearer. Cleveland also 
gained an advantage from the enmity of Tammany Hall, for 
the "mugwump" or reform element in the Republican Party 
liked anti-Tammany candidates and would cross party lines to 
vote for one. 

Cleveland's own political cross was the charge of having sired 
an illegitimate child. 6 Maria Halpin was an obscure young 
widow from a Pennsylvania family who, leaving two children 
behind her, moved from Buffalo to Jersey City in 1871 and 
began work as a collar-maker, then as a drygoods clerk for 
Flint and Kent, where she eventually came to be given charge 
of the cloak department. In the years ahead many a story and 
play would revolve about her prototype: "NeEy, the Beautiful 
Cloak Model." 

Maria Halpin was a pretty widow, pleasant mannered, and 
spoke a foreign language, French, which gave her a certain 
social standing in Jersey City despite her occupation and a 
tendency to alcohol. She attended fashionable St. John's 
Episcopal Church, and had suitors galore, among them young 
Cleveland, thirty-seven, one year her senior. 

In 1874, on September 14, a son was born to her. She named 
the child Oscar Cleveland and charged Grover with the pa- 

6. The succeeding information is based on exhaustive research by 
Allan Nevins and otEers and comes from study of the Buffalo press from 
1876 to 1884, of many Cleveland letters, of a carefully prepared Demo- 
cratic pampHet, and pertinent files. 

Dignifies tlie Presidential Veto 133 

ternity. Although, as he wrote to a Boston friend when Presi- 
dent, he didn't really know whether the child was his or not, 
Cleveland made provision for the boy. 7 Those who appeared 
to know most about the case and were as neutral as it was 
possible to be in the circumstances were of the opinion at the 
time that Maria Halpin had no real idea who was in fact the 
father of her child. She had fixed upon Grover Cleveland be- 
cause he alone of her suitors was then unmarried; she hoped 
thus to induce him to marry her. 

The mother soon began neglecting her offspring and took 
heavily to drink. Eventually she was taken to the Providence 
Asylum, an institution for the mentally deficient run by the 
Sisters of Charity. Meanwhile, her boy was committed by the 
Overseer of the Poor to the Protestant Orphan Asylum on Main 
Street, Jersey City. When the mother had regained her sanity 
she attempted to get her child back by kidnaping him on April 
28, 1876, from the orphanage. But he law soon intervened. 
The boy was finally committed to the orphanage at the usual 
board rate of $5.00 a week, which Cleveland paid, and eventu- 
ally adopted formally by one of the best families in western 
New York, becoming a distinguished professional man under 
another name never revealed to Cleveland or the outside world. 

Cleveland gave Mrs. Halpin money to start her own business 
in Niagara Falls, but she quickly disappeared. Twenty years 
later, during Cleveland's second term as President, she threat- 
ened the President in two letters. One asked for money; the 
other threatened to publish facts in her possession. Neither 
letter produced action on Cleveland's part, for he must have 
been heartily sick of her by now. In Alexander Hamilton's 
candid words after his own affair with Mrs. Reynolds: "I have 
paid pretty dearly for my folly." Similarly, Cleveland had 
acted a man's part, as had Hamilton, denying nothing and 
making no attempt to evade a responsibility which could not 
certainly be his in the circumstances. 

When the flabbergasted Democratic Party heard this accusa- 
tion against its presidential standard-bearer on July 21, 1884, 
Cleveland was asked by letter what the party should do. Cleve- 

7. Cleveland Papers, 


land's reply is probably the best measure of the man. He simply 
said: Tell the truth." 

It was a common-sense decision, for from the truth he had 
very little to be afraid. Had the scandal been disclosed during 
the convention in Chicago there is little doubt that Cleveland 
would not have been nominated. No modern presidential candi- 
date could survive such a tag in Cleveland's time the scandal 
was, if anything, harder on a candidate because of hypocritical 
Victorian sex standards. 

Had the illegitimacy issue been brought to light in the last 
weeks of the campaign, Cleveland would undoubtedly have 
lost the election. 8 There would have been no time to discount 
the story and explain it by telling the true facts. As it was, the 
period from July to November was sufficiently long to enable 
Grover Cleveland to survive his culpability in personal rela- 
tions, whereas Elaine's delinquency in public life came too late 
for sufficient rebuttal, if indeed there ever was an opportunity 
for one. 

Cleveland's campaign was cleverly handled by William C. 
Whitney, a brilliant Wall Street attorney and financier. Whit- 
ney's greatness lay in his combining reform with practical 
politics he wasn't afraid to go out and buy blocs of votes with 
promises to minorities. Thomas A. Hendricks of Indiana gave 
the ticket balance. Cleveland, a naturally friendly man, helped 
enormously by his candor in the illegitimate child accusation 
and his patent honesty as reform Mayor of Buffalo and Gov- 
ernor of New York. 

Cleveland was physically unimpressive, short and dumpy, 
unduly plump; but somehow he gave the public a portrait of 
power and immovably honest stolidity. 9 He was heavy-handed 

8. Nevins, op. cit., pp. 164-68. 

9. Ike Hoover writes in Forty-two Years in the White House ( Boston, 
Houghton MifHin Company, 1934), p. 13: "President Cleveland, natur- 
ally a hard-working individual, seemed to be the most laborious of all 
the Presidents under whom I served [he served under ten]. Breakfast at 
nine, lunch at one-thirty, dinner at seven-thirty, were almost the only 
breais in his day. It appeared as if the President for some reason worked 
much harder to accomplish the same results than other men who have 
occupied the office. He dictated but little, preferring to write practically 
everything with his own hand. It was no uncommon thing for him to 

Dignifies the Presidential Veto 135 

and unimaginative and literally found honesty to be the best 
policy. Sometimes this led to ticklish situations where bad 
timing and refusal to compromise hurt him; yet he seemed to 
make up for this among the independent voters, who were 
always attracted to his candor and straightforwardness. 

It may not have been sound philosophy nor always sound 
politics to run a presidential campaign this way, but as the 
newspapers said, "it was magnificent." 10 In his public relations, 
Cleveland's honesty often appeared as "stubbornness, tactless- 
ness, suspiciousness, and irritability, but these qualities were 
attractive to those citizens who were tired of the specious gloss 
of the Tlumed Knight/" 11 

One Boston newspaperman (Cleveland had long been a 
favorite of the newspapermen because of his candor) prob- 
ably was keeping Cleveland's converted Harvard audience in 
mind when he wrote the following endorsement for his Re- 
publican paper, the Boston Advertiser: 

Cleveland is stout, has a well-fed look, is indeed a good 
liver, has the air of a man who has made up his mind just 
how he ought to behave in any position where he may find 
himself. He is getting bald; he is getting gray though his 
white hair does not show conspicuously, since his complexion 
is sandy. He dresses well, carries himself well, talks well 
upon any subject with which he is familiar, and upon sub- 
jects with which he is not familiar he does not venture to 
talk at all. He has the happy faculty of being able to refuse 
a request without giving offence. It has been my fortune to 
see him several times during the past winter upon business 
in connection with some of the State institutions. He has 
impressed me always as one heartily desirous of getting at 
the bottom of any matter he may have in hand, and of acting 
wisely in it 

remain in Ms office until two or three o'clock in the morning, diligently 
laboring on some important document. On various occasions he was 
known to remain there the entire night working on a message to Congress 
or something of the sort he considered unusually urgent." 

10. Leland D. Baldwin, The AduWs American History (West Eindge, 
New Hampshire, Richard R. Smith, Inc., 1955), P- 349- 

11. Ibid. 


Partly through candor and apparent rudeness, Cleveland was 
to lose re-election in 1888, only to win back the Presidency in 
1892 on his third try, the only President we've had whose two 
terms were not consecutive. Indeed, Cleveland's growth and 
development are plain in the differences between Cleveland as 
President from 1884 to 1888 and Cleveland as President from 
1892 to 1896. In the first term he regarded the Presidency, as 
did most of his contemporaries, as a policeman's beat, with the 
social forces about him entirely free to battle among them- 
selves. In his second term he used government as a creative 
social force. 

The Republican Party had, quite naturally, dominated Amer- 
ican politics since the Civil War because the Democratic Party 
was identified, not without some justice, as the party of slavery, 
disunion, and defeat. The waving of the bloody shirt of war 
and rebellion was by itself nearly sufficient to elect and re-elect 
for President one Republican candidate after another between 
Lincoln and Arthur. One whole generation was born and grew 
to manhood without knowing a Democrat in the White House. 
In reverse, a whole generation was to be conceived and grow 
to manhood between 1932 and 1952 without the experience of 
a Republican President. As at the end of the New Deal-Fair 
Deal chain of undefeated Democrats, corruption from too many 
consecutive years in office and overconfidence linked arms to 
defeat the Republicans of the mid-eighties. No political party 
could be entrenched for a whole generation and not show the 
consequences inside its organization. The Republicans of the 
i88os were no exception, any more than were the Democrats 
seventy-two years later. 

James Buchanan had been the last Democrat to win the 
Presidency, in 1856. He was perhaps our weakest President 
He had done nothing at all in four dreadful years of increas- 
ingly critical debate and political inaction over slavery. Like 
Pilate, Buchanan had washed his hands of the unsavory affair 
and looked the other way. This had given the Republican Party 
its reason for being: within a short span of two years, 1858 
to 1860, the upstart Republicans had come from a gleam in the 

Dignifies tJie Presidential Veto 137 

founders* eyes to the White House, there to stay through six 
consecutive quadrennial elections covering twenty-four years. 

Lincoln, of course, Bad been its first hero. His martyred 
memory helped the Republican cause more than any other 
single factor in the continuous re-election of Republicans as 
President. His name was political magic for the Republican 
Party and still is. 

Lincoln had beaten General George B. McClellan when time 
came for re-election, iiien was shot dead a few weeks after his 
second inaugural. Vice-President Andrew Johnson was next 
President and came within a vote of being our only Chief 
Executive to be impeached. General Grant, a fourteen-carat 
war hero, could hardly have escaped election and re-election 
in the next eight years, defeating Horatio Seymour in 1868 
and Horace Greeley and a host of other candidates (most of 
them reform Republicans) in 1872. 

Then had come the disgusting Hayes-Tiden election in 
which the Democratic Governor from New York had not only 
outpolled the Republican candidate in popular vote, but, if 
truth were known and it was never allowed to raise its voice 
in the electoral college in the electoral vote by states as well. 
A rigged (Republican) majority in the investigating commis- 
sion had finally decided the contest, just before Inauguration 
Day, 185 to 184, in favor of Rutherford B. Hayes. Governor 
Tilden, not wishing to rend his country twice in a generation, 
withdrew, although he and most literate people knew he had 
been properly elected President, popularly and by states. 
* The Democrats had, then, not placed a man in the White 
House in five consecutive tries when General Garfield met 
General Hancock on the field of political ballot in 1880. But 
Hancock proved to be the most inept campaigner of the 
nineteenth century (Alf Landon probably wins it for the 
twentieth century); somehow, the ground Governor Tilden had 
gained was relinquished by the Democratic Party. Garfield 
won easily in the electoral totals 214 to 155, though only 9,464 
votes out of almost 9,000,000 separated the two men in total 
popular vote. 

The Cleveland-Blaine campaign of 1884 was, therefore, a 


true milestone in American history. Cleveland probably owed 
his nomination and election in part to the underlying appetite 
o his day that reform and change were not only essential and 
overdue, but downright tasty. The preponderance of the in- 
telligentsia were sick of unending Republican victories and 
corrupt dictatorship. As in 1952, a cry arose from many who 
would never have voted against their own party except as a 
gesture toward a true two-party system, healthy for the Ameri- 
can body politic. And while both candidates in 1884 w re 
involved with scandal in the filthiest of all our political ex- 
travaganzas, this overwhelming desire for a change undoubt- 
edly was the prevailing factor. 

Precious little high-level campaigning was done on either 
side, in the circumstances. An emotional binge, it would have 
been worse had radio and television been available then. As 
it was, each voter read of the campaign's progress, its speeches, 
accusations, charges, countercharges, political proposals, and 
promises only in the newspaper of his own political choice 
(there were a Democratic paper and a Republican paper in 
Just about every city in the land in those days) and nowhere 
else, except perhaps in Harpers Weekly or a similar organ 
tuned to national issues. 

The party platforms, as usual, read about the same, but 
liberal Republicans, led by the influential Harpers, supported 
Cleveland when the tart new Mulligan letters were made pub- 
lic. Cleveland was, moreover, thoroughly supported by con- 
servative businessmen for he was, to some, "sounder" than 
Elaine. In the words of a business journal of the time it really 
didn't matter which man won because "a good President can- 
not make the country; a bad President cannot ordinarily 
mar it** 12 

With "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion" ringing in their un- 
washed ears, just enough Irish Catholics in New York City 
swung to Cleveknd to give him electoral victory. The total 
popular vote was: 

12,. W. M. GeweBr, ed., American Civilization: A History of the 
United Stales (New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1957), 

p. 314- 

Dignifies the Presidential Veto 139 

Grover Cleveland (D) 4,874,986 
James G. Blaine (R) 4,851,981 

Yet tibis margin, small as It was, was far greater than tlie 
9,000 by which Garfield had beaten Hancock; it meant true 
resurgence of the Democratic Party and the two-party system 
of American government, the first such emergence in a quarter 
of a century. In the electoral college, Cleveland won by 219 
to 182, entirely chargeable to New York State which went 
Democratic by a thousand votes, undoubtedly Irish Catholic in 

The revolt of liberals in the Republican Party, known to his- 
torians as "mugwumps," the defeat of Blaine by a handful of 
votes in pivotal New York State, and the first election of a 
Democratic President in twenty-four years meant that the de- 
moralizing shadow of the Civil War was passing, that it was 
no longer good politics to depend on the bloody shirt and a 
genuine handicap to be against reform. 

Cleveland had been a notable reformer in New York State. 
But when he had become the first Democrat to take over the 
White House since James Buchanan, he was faced with a 
plainly voracious political party, a party which had had no ad- 
ministrative political patronage for a generation. Ravenous for 
jobs, spoilsmen badgered Cleveland almost beyond endurance. 
During the campaign, a Republican Senator had taunted Cleve- 
land, TTou cannot serve both God and the Democrats at the 
same time"; now that appointments had to be made he would 
do his best, which was very good indeed, to make the Republi- 
can a liar. 

Cleveland quickly appointed two former Confederates to 
his Cabinet, which rarfded the G.A.R., as a wartime enemy 
might rankle with the American Legion today, though the 
American Legion has never held a shadow of the power the 
Grand Army of the Republic and its veterans wielded in post- 
Civil War years. To irritate the heroes of blue still further, the 
new President tried to return captured Confederate battle flags. 
There was also the almost daily matter of veterans* bonuses, 
and it was here that Cleveland dignified the power of the 


veto, 13 The veto is one of the oldest of democratic checks and 
balances. It consists of an action by the Chief Executive in 
withholding his approval of a law already passed by the leg- 
islative branch. In a sense the United States Supreme Court 
maintains its own veto in the form of judgment as to the Con- 
stitutionality of any law, but only in the case of the Chief 
Executive is this nullifying action called precisely "veto/' 

Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution gives the President 
of the United States veto power, but it is a qualified or limited 
veto, not as absolute as monarchs and dictators have known 
it in history. From them there has been no recourse in the 
legislative branch; from the presidential veto there is. For he 
may be overridden and the vetoed act become the law of the 
land through a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress. 
The veto doesn't apply to proposed Constitutional Amend- 
ments, questions of adjournment, or concurrent resolutions. 

Veto power goes back to Roman law and the word is in the 
Roman language; veto literally means "I forbid" in Latin. Eng- 
land still has a royal veto on its law books, but no British 
monarch has used his or her veto power over acts of Parlia- 
ment since Queen Anne in 1707. Most countries don't allow 
their chief executives as much say in legislation as Americans 
do, and the veto is a potent weapon, indeed sometimes the 
only weapon a President has when one or both houses of 
Congress has a majority of the opposing party. President Eisen- 
hower, for example, used Ms veto successfully hundreds of 
times and wasn't overridden until his seventh year in office, 
despite huge Democratic majorities. 

Edward S. Corwin points out in The President Office and 
towers 1 * that the early talent Americans revealed for conjur- 
ing up Constitutional limitations and balances moved like a 
bee to buckwheat toward the veto power. It meant for those 
who framed the Constitution yet another weapon for making 
certain that no one power legislative, judicial, executive in 

13. Horace Samuel Merrill, Bourbon Leader: Grower Cleveland and the 
Democratic Party (Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 1957), PP- 

14. Edward S. Corwin, The President Office and Powers (New York, 
New York University Press, 1940), pp. 337-46. 

Dignifies the Presidential Veto 141 

particular could take control of the country at any time in 
any situation without a check from one or both of the other 
two powers. Corwin writes: 'The veto was solely a self -defen- 
sive weapon of the President; it was the means furnished the 
President for carrying out his oath to 'preserve, protect and 
defend the Constitution' and was not validly usable for any 
other purpose." 

To give the President even more power through the veto, the 
framers of the Constitution worded this passage to make it 
read that the President would have ten, days from presentation 
rather than passage of a bill in which to disapprove of it. This 
would make it possible for a President, even in the days of 
slow travel and faulty communications, to move about the 
country, indeed to roam the world without fear that the legis- 
lative would put over something in his absence. Through care- 
ful wording of the veto section, presentation and not passage 
became an added check on uncontrolled legislative domination 
and power. 

Furthermore, as Corwin points out, by withholding their 
signatures from bills passed by both houses, the presiding 
officers of those bodies can lengthen the period between actual 
passage of a measure and its presentation to an absent Presi- 
dent, so that on his return he will not be swamped with such 
measures. With this Constitutional precedent, Franklin D. 
Roosevelt signed a bill on July 13, 1936, no less than twenty- 
three days after the adjournment of the Congress. 

For years, Presidents have urged that Congress make Con- 
stitutional provision for itemized veto of bills, but nothing 
along this line has gotten very far in an organization dedicated 
to helping the members* political problems through legislative 
logrolling. If a President could veto item by item he could 
reduce or eliminate specific sections particularly in appropri- 
ation bills with extraneous riders without destroying the good 
features he felt should be enacted into law. The Senate has 
always been the roadblock against giving the President item 
veto power, for the Senate insists that the reform would re- 
quire a Constitutional Amendment, two-thirds of both houses 
and three-fourths of the states assenting within a given period, 


This has, so far, been too much for such, a controversial meas- 
ure, which nevertheless makes sense in rapid, complicated 
modern legislation and life. 

The President's veto can almost certainly be ascribed to the 
framers' fears that without it the executive third of our govern- 
ment would soon sink into nonexistence. 13 Almost to the hour 
of its final adjournment, the Constitutional Convention shifted 
back and forth between requiring two-thirds and three-quarters 
vote in both houses for overriding a veto. Those who wished 
it to be three-quarters felt that the executive was already too 
greatly weakened and needed shoring up. Those who wished 
the overriding to take place at two-thirds sought to limit the 
presidential power over the direct voice of the people their 
legislature; and two-thirds was closer to a majority of one than 
was three-quarters, ordinarily a difficult number to obtain in 
any serious legislative vote. 

In any case, Presidents used the veto sparingly at first, more 
and more as the years and precedent stabilized fears of domi- 
nant executive power. The pocket veto, by which a President 
can postpone veto until after adjournment, thereby stifling any 
overriding vote, was one ruse soon learned at the other end of 
Pennsylvania Avenue from The Hill. 

Cleveland's first brush with the power of veto had come 
when he was Governor of New York. Cleveland's veto of 
Teddy Roosevelt's tenure of office bill had caused some eye- 
brow raising in New York State, as well it might. The bill had 
been aimed at ridding the New York City government of 
Hubert O. Thompson, whose corrupt conduct as Commissioner 
of Public Works had aroused public and editorial condemna- 
tion regardless of party. Even the Democratic New York Times 
wanted Cleveknd to sign the bill, which authorized the next 
elected Mayor of New York to appoint a fresh public works 
commissioner before Thompson s term expired. But Cleveland 
vetoed the bill a week before the legislature adjourned. He 
called it the most carelessly written legislation ever sent to 
him for signature. Cleveland went on so in his veto message 

15. Ibid., p. 338. 

Dignifies the Presidential Veto 143 

that the state could well say It thought "he protested too 

Reformers were disappointed in "Him and said so. They were, 
naturally, deeply interested in what motivated Cleveland's veto 
and they hadn't far to look. For Cleveland's veto of the Theo- 
dore Roosevelt reform, measure abruptly ended a break be- 
tween Cleveland and Tammany Hall, indeed patched it so well 
that Hubert Thompson's power to select Tammany delegates 
to the 1884 Democratic National Convention appeared to be 
a decisive factor. There's not the slightest question that Cleve- 
land was highly delegate-conscious at this time and that he 
had already been approached at top level with the White 
House in view. Teddy Roosevelt was among many who 
screamed that Cleveland's veto action had more to do with 
ambition than an innate feeling for reform. 

It was as President of the United States that the power of 
the veto began to appeal to Cleveland as a weapon for the 
public good. 16 Presidential vetoes in that era required a lion's 
courage, for veterans* pensions and patronage had long been 
whips and powerful ones in the hands of the Republican Party 
and the Grand Army of the Republic. The Republicans had 
been bent on demonstrating that they and they alone were the 
only true friends of Civil War veterans. They had campaigned 
long and lustily that the advent of a Democrat in the White 
House would mean the beginning of the end of veterans' pork- 
barrel pension bills and bonuses. When Cleveland therefore 
failed to ask the Congress for the usual pension largess, the 
G.A,R. and their Republican allies screamed from the new 
West to Maine and from Michigan to Maryland. 

Cleveland had adopted a system of applying the principle 
of veteran's preference in removals and appointments only to 
disabled G.A.R.S. (Naturally, no Confederate veteran had the 
slightest chance of government aid in those days.) Suddenly 

16. Carl Sclmrz, a maverick Republican liberal and confirmed mug- 
wump, became one of Cleveland's Cabinet and stated later that Cleve- 
land cMded fa' with, these words: ""What's die use of being elected and 

re-elected if you don't stand for something?" 


a flood of private pension bills drowned the House and Senate 
hoppers and Cleveland vetoed almost every one of them. 
Cleveland now pleaded that the pension system be made 
fairer, more honest, more efficient, and more up-to-date. The 
G.A.K would have none of it and appeared outraged. Veterans 
had been at the public teat for a whole generation and they 
weren't going to lose their hold easily on such a succulent and 
nourishing breast. 

As the accumulating battle between Cleveland and the 
G.A.R. spread to new veterans for whom private pension bills 
had been arranged in every Northern state, Cleveland's veto 
messages became more and more sarcastic. 17 His irritability in- 
creased. His language hardened, became caustic. He placed 
himself on more than one occasion in the untenable political 
situation of being an economic enemy of men who had saved 
the Union. When Cleveland had to point out that many a 
Congressman was voting for bills based on fraudulent claims, 
and in doing so used sarcastic and searing language, the wrath 
of Democratic and Republican political bosses alike descended 
*in white tongues of flame upon the first Democratic President 
since the Civil War. 

Early in 1887, a long-pending bill actually offered pensions 
to all disabled veterans who had served for three months in 
the Union cause and had no known friends or relatives to 
support them. Congress passed the bill quickly and without 
much care in the wording. Old age was to be regarded as 
disability; other nonmilitary causes were sufficient to qualify 
for a life pension. Known as the "pauper's bill/' this amazing 
measure went so far as to include the dependent parents of 
soldiers who had died in the service of the North. 18 

Cleveland took a deep breath and promptly vetoed the 
parody. His veto was the very mark of a courageous, candid 
man. It was wrong, he argued in his veto message, to place 
mere charity cases on the Federal pay roll. He reminded the 
Congress what such a precedent would eventually mean to the 
United States Treasury. If dependent parents of dead veterans 

17. Merrill, op. cit. f pp. 106-34. 

18. Ibid. 9 pp. 105-7. 

Dignifies tJie Presidential Veto 145 

were now accepted, their brothers, sisters, cousins, and aunts 
might be included in the next bill. Pretty soon every family 
north of the Mason-Dixon Line would be on the Federal pay 
roll, and that was something the "businessman's President" 
couldn't swallow. The veto's logic stuck. 

The political losses Cleveland sustained among Civil War 
veterans and their puppet politicians from this and other veto 
messages were more than made up for by citizens who shared 
Cleveland's acute indignation at dishonesty and corruption in 
government. But Cleveland failed to get through the Congress 
a decent substitute pension bill, and in this his own temper 
was a factor. The pension problem remained when he left the 
Presidency. Where he might have treaded gingerly in his rela- 
tions with The Hill and the G.A.R., powerful voices in the 
America of the late iSoos, Cleveland seemed forever to jump 
squarely with both feet into the heart of the wasp's nest of 
Civil War memories and sentiment. 

Grover Cleveland vetoed more bills than any President be- 
fore him. But most of the bills he vetoed were for private 
pensions in which each man or group of men up for pension 
constituted an individual bill, repeated ad nauseam. Cleveland 
promptly upbraided and vetoed each bad bill as it came to 
his groaning desk. 

Actually, Franklin D. Roosevelt vetoed the greatest number 
and variety of measures of any President. 19 It was calculated 
at Roosevelt's death that he and Cleveland were, between 
them, responsible for two-thirds of all the vetoes cast since 
Washington first employed the presidential veto power in 
1792. 20 

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., suspects that Franklin Roosevelt 

19. Dwight D. Eisenhower later was to give the veto new armor 
through his amazing power to make vetoes stick. In his first six years as 
President, Eisenhower was never once overridden by the required two- 
thirds vote of both houses of Congress, though they were usually 
Democrat-controlled. In 1959, when his record was finally broken, it 
had to be on pork-barrel legislation, the sort of local self-interest bill 
which had plagued Grover Cleveland and caused him to dignify the veto 
as a presidential prerogative. 

20. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Coming of the New Deal (Boston, 
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1959), p. 555- 


later used the veto purposefully to enforce respect for the 
President's policies and titular position. 21 It seemed sometimes 
as though Roosevelt were casting about for bills to veto simply 
to flex Ms executive muscles and show his power. Cleveland, 
however, never invoked the veto in this way. He was far too 
candid and direct. He was incapable of dissembling or of 
puddshness. He dignified the veto as a presidential instrument, 
using its unique power to maintain fiscal integrity against an 
almost insane, emotional veterans' lobby which was, beyond 
doubt, the most venal and powerful legislative minority ever 
to haunt the cloakrooms of The Hill. 

Indeed, President Cleveland vetoed 301 bills in his first 
term, almost all of them private pension bills. Allan Nevins 
says that the general evil of giving every needy ex-soldier 
pensions, and quite a few not so needy, was tolerated by "that 
immense good nature which is rather an American vice than a 
virtue." 22 

Almost a quarter of a million pensioners had already been 
placed on the public pay roll, but this number began to de- 
cline as veterans died off with greater rapidity. To check this 
decline, the veterans* lobby had then pushed through Congress 
the famous "arrears of pensions" act which President Hayes 
had cheerfully signed. This act was intended to do justice to 
veterans who had incurred illnesses as a result of war injuries 
or whose wounds had eventually caused them disability. 

President Hayes had been a thoroughgoing, even willing, 
veterans' man. President Cleveland felt as deeply as the next 
for ill, wounded, disabled veterans in real want he signed 
1,453 private pension bills in his first four years as President! 
But an obvious racket was wrong and dishonesty something 
so repugnant to this first postwar Democrat that he simply 
could not bring himself to hoodwink or bankrupt America. 
Dr. Nevins reports as follows: 23 

There were thousands of "invalid" pensioners who were 
robust and able-bodied. There were other thousands pen- 

31. Ibid. 

32, Nevins, op. <M. 9 p. 326. 
23, Ibid., 326-32. 

Dignifies the Presidential Veto 147 

sioned for diseases really incurred in civilian life. There 
were "dependent relatives" who were quite independent, 
and "widows'' who had long ago remarried. There were still 
more glaring cases of successful fraud by swindlers who 
impersonated dead pensioners and continued to receive their 
checks. The system had been at fault in three principal ways. 
The evidence upon which pensions were granted was ex 
parte, being furnished by comrades and neighbors, the ex- 
amining surgeons were local physicians, often glad to help 
a friend and bring more money into the community; and 
the gauge of a pensioner's disability was his unfitness to do 
manual labor without regard to his mental capacity or pri- 
vate income. 

It was Cleveland's object to call sharp attention to the 
carelessness of the system; and in a special veto message of 
May 8, 1886, he unlimbered his artillery against the most 
careless feature of all the host of special pension bills 
which Congress had fallen into the habit of passing without 
any real consideration. He complained that Congress had 
recently sent him in one day 240 special bills, of which 198 
covered claims already rejected by the Pensions Bureau. Any 
veteran whose claim was too silly or impudent to get past 
the pension authorities was at liberty to take it to his Rep- 
resentative or Senator. The resulting bills became thick as 
autumn leaves in Vallombrosa. The House had set aside Fri- 
day evenings for enacting them with a jubilant whoop, while 
the Senate, in a single field-day (April 21, 1886) voted some 
four hundred of them. As Cleveland said, many of them 
were the result of nominal sessions held for their express 
consideration and attended by a small minority of the mem- 
bers of the respective houses. 

The principle involved was simple: The nation had in its 
Pensions Bureau a virtual pensions court, hearing cases fairly 
and interpreting the laws in a liberal spirit. Congress was 
setting itself up as a rival pensions court, and reversing 
hundreds of decisions made by the proper tribunal. It is 
not too much to say that three out of four of the special 
bills were flagrantly bad. The President's method of dealing 
with them was to send back measure after measure with 
brief and sarcastic messages of exposure. He approved many 
several times as many as he rejected; but by the middle 


of August, 1886, he had penned more than a hundred vetoes. 
He thus fixed the eyes of the country upon a gross perver- 
sion of Congressional energy, which combined robbery of 
the Treasury with a vicious time-wasting habit of attention 
to special and local bills. As he pointed out, Congress should 
either rely upon the Pensions Bureau, or reorganize it to 
make it reliable. If it really constituted itself a supreme 
court to deal with claims, in justice to the veterans it would 
have to attend to all that were offered. Indeed, the number 
of private bills was increasing by leaps and bounds; Rep- 
resentative Warner showed that in about six months 4,127 
pension bills had been introduced in the House, and a larger 
number in the Senate enough if given ten minutes apiece, 
to consume four months of Congressional time. No earlier 
President had ever vetoed one of these bills! Cleveland 
signed far more than he vetoed, and far more than any 
previous President had ever signed; but he took a stand 
against the enactment of an indiscriminate and unconsidered 
mass of legislation. 

His brief, pointed veto messages were so good that it was 
a pity he weakened their effect by occasional gibes or ridi- 
cule. It was easy to find objects for his humor. One claimant 
explained that he had been registered "at home'* and had 
set out on horseback intending to complete his enlistment, 
that on the way his horse had fallen on his left ankle and 
that he was thus entitled to a cripple's pension. A widow 
whose husband had been killed by a fall from a ladder in 
1881 traced this to a slight flesh-wound in the calf in 1865! 
A Louisville policeman demanded a pension for the death 
of his son ten months after desertion from the army. A simi- 
lar claim was made by the family of a Pennsylvanian who, 
after deserting, had been drowned in a canal six miles from 
home. An Illinois soldier who had been captured and re- 
leased on parole had been injured at his home in 1863 by 
the explosion of a Fourth of July cannon, and now in 1886 
asked for a special pension. The widow of a captain who had 
died in 1883 ^om cerebral apoplexy swore that it was the 
result of a hernia contracted in 1863. One gallant private 
claimed that a disease of the eyes had resulted from army 

Dignifies the Presidential Veto 149 

To nonsense like this, Grover Cleveland applied the un- 
sparing veto as an instrument of permanent executive policy. 
He did so without apology and without regret. By the end 

of his first term, Cleveland had made enough enemies through 
private pension bill vetoes alone to assure his defeat for re- 
election. The recipe was simple: Stir in natural four-year de- 
fection of once loyal voters, hard times, native anti-Democratic 

sentiment still current as a result of war, and the President's 
inability to teU anything but the unvarnished truth, and you 
have a formula unlikely to return anyone to the White House. 

But Benjamin Harrison, who beat Cleveknd in their first 
encounter, created enemies and hard times of his own between 
1888 and 1892; Cleveland was then returned to office, where- 
upon he continued to veto whatever he believed to be not in 
the public good. 

Indeed, many an encyclopedia and history book refer to 
Cleveland as "The Veto President," not because he used the 
veto more often than any other Chief Executive, but because 
he dramatized and realized its potential Cleveland pioneered 
massive use of the veto as had no other President before him. 
He had visualized in the veto a powerful force in the constant 
changes of executive-judicial-legislative power balance. He 
had made the veto an instrument of national policy. He had, 
through sheer honesty and blunt resolve, implemented and 
dignified it, given it a luster it had not had before, and in 
doing so strengthened the powers and the office of President 
of the United States. 

Theodore Roosevelt 

MANY words in many languages define many different kinds 
o trade restraint or other arrangement involving mo- 
nopolistic practices in the market place. In continental Europe, 
the word frequently used is of French-German origin, "cartel." 
To most Americans this translates as "monopoly . w And "mo- 
nopoly" has often been called "trust'' in the philosophical writ- 
ings of those who have sought to prove that monopolistic 
practices contribute to the discomfort of the common man 
and are contrary to the general welfare. All three words, "car- 
teV* "monopoly," and "trust," are aldn and, to historians, prac- 
tically interchangeable. 

There are two types of trusts in the classic definition: hori- 
zontal and vertical trusts. While both have to do with un- 
natural monopolies, each has its own distinct shape, size, and 
structure. A horizontal trust is a combination of corporations 
or businesses engaged in the same line or product; a vertical 
trust is an organization which, within itself, controls every- 
thing necessary to its own line of operation from raw material 
and transportation to final packaging. In the United States, 
both lands of trusts are illegal when in restraint of trade. 

Competing drag firms manufacturing a new medicine will 
charge $4.50 for it, though it may have cost them $0.23 to 
process and package. The government conducts an inquiry, 
charging they are a horizontal trust They have agreed among 
themselves to fix the price in restraint of free competitive trade 
to the detriment of the public. They have done so, of course, 


Trust-Busts Changes in the 

to insure their profits, prevent price-cutting, and maintain a 
solid front against what they consider unnecessary competitive 

Automobile companies, on the other hand, are often sued 
as vertical trusts, since many of them not only own the ores 
and other raw materials from which they produce their autos 
but manufacture their own steel, operate their own railroads, 
and make the end product these railroads haul to market. 

The original Standard Oil Company, for example, was once 
a sprawling trust which almost completely controlled the sup- 
ply, manufacture, and distribution of petroleum products in 
vast areas of the United States. Standard Oil in John D. Rocke- 
feller's heyday induced various stockholders in supply enter- 
prises to assign their stock to a common board of trustees for 
which they received dividend-bearing trust certificates in ex- 
change. The oil trustees were thus able to manage what should 
have been competing supplier firms, fix prices at both whole- 
sale and retail levels, throttle competition at its supply source, 
dictate freight rates, control profits, and otherwise perform in 
the classic vein of the "combination in restraint of trade." 

The Sherman Anti-Trust Act, passed by Congress in 1890, 
has often been invoked in similar cases because it makes illegal 
any attempt to monopolize an industry or to restrain the 
normal competitive capitalistic system to the detriment of the 
general welfare. Nowadays there is no one Standard Oil Com- 
pany. There are Standard Oil of Ohio, Standard Oil of Indiana, 


Standard Oil o California, Standard Oil of New Jersey, etc. 
Each is a separate company and, broken up, Standard Oil now 
has nowhere near the unholy restraining power, the huge 
monopoly once within the grasp of its trustees and officers. 

Why are monopolies bad for the public? Simply because 
the human beings who operate them profit exorbitantly at the 
public's expense and prices stay artificially high. There is no 
free flow of competition which, in capitalism, is the life of 
trade. When the supply of a finished product or raw material 
is controlled so that its purchasers cannot buy it anywhere 
else and are forced to meet the arbitrary terms of sale laid 
down by the restraining combination, the result is monopoly. 

Except for temporary monopolies in times of stress, such as 
war, none of the non-Marxist nations will long tolerate mo- 
nopolies or trusts or cartels under the democratic political 
system. Laws are quickly passed to relieve the public. In com- 
munist countries, of course, everything is monopolistic: the 
government controls, prices, distributes, and withholds at its 
own discretion and for its own purposes, in spite of the fact 
that Karl Marx's foremost philosophical enemy was the mo- 
nopolist who was, he said, chief of the workingman's devils. 

The Sherman Anti-Trust Act took its name from Senator 
John Sherman of Ohio. Monkey business in high places in the 
mushrooming mergers of the late nineteenth century caused 
the act to be passed. Increasingly the public opposed un- 
bridled impudence in its royalty type economic structure. In 
an era devoted to long overdue reform in politics, it was most 
natural to regard industrial combinations and mergers in re- 
straint of free trade as an evil thing. So the public acted. 

Demand for restrictive legislation against trusts, cartels, and 
monopolies rose to such a pitch by Cleveland's time that it 
became a political issue no major candidate could avoid, 
though many tried. In 1890 an antitrust measure finally passed 
both houses of Congress and was signed by President Benjamin 
Harrison ( grandson of President William Henry Harrison, the 
hero of Tippecanoe). The act was a simple one; it was based 
on the Constitutional power of Congress to regulate interstate 

Trust-Busts Changes in the Presidency 153 

The Sherman act declared illegal every combination, cartel, 
monopoly, trust, contract, or conspiracy in restraint of trade, 

either interstate or foreign. The act set up a fine of $5,000 and 
imprisonment for one year as maximum penalties for viola- 
tion. But, in the first decade of its life, the Sherman Anti-Trust 
Act had the wind taken out of its sails by the Supreme Court, 
which watered down its powers and jurisdiction, chiefly 
through its decision in the E. C. Knight Company case of 1895. 

What the act needed, in the long run, was not legal wording 
or interpretation but a man who believed trusts, combinations, 
mergers, cartels, monopolies, contracts, and conspiracies in re- 
straint of trade to be truly against the public interest, and to 
do something about same. That man became President of the 
United States quite by accident on September 14, 1901, at the 
age of forty-two. To understand why he was an accidental 
President and what his accession meant to the prosecution of 
monopolistic trusts, one has to go back to the renomination 
of William McKinley, ardent friend of business and the status 

McKinley's love of unbridled capitalism and faith in it has 
no parallel among modern American Presidents. Usually a 
President has displayed somewhere a feeling for the industrial 
underdog, the downtrodden woridngman, the man who 'labors 
so others may profit."* But not the twenty-fifth President of the 
United States. He supported every manufacturers' measure 
proposed by his backers, among whom was the powerful capi- 
talist-politician Marcus A. Hanna, from McKinley's state of 

Not only did McKinley endorse the gold standard and abhor 
free silver but he championed a protective tariff so high that 
foreign trade began to dwindle dangerously. Isolationist and 
conservative by nature, McKinley became nevertheless a war 
President, if the Spanish- American affair can be called one. 

Banna had wangled the Ohio Governorship for McKinley, 
an undistinguished Republican Congressman. In 1895, Hanna 
began to move toward McKinley's presidential nomination. 
Through as adroit and skillful a campaign as any ever handled 
in U. S. politics, Hanna made McKinley not only candidate 


but President He easily defeated William Jennings Bryan, the 
Democrat, regarded by Ms time as a radical, labor's champion, 
and no friend of the economic royalist. 

McKinley's first term was placid, except for the Spanish- 
American disturbance, which was confined to the year 1898 
and two memorable events: the sinking of the battleship 
Maine, and the dramatic charge up San Juan Hill. America 
remembered the Maine and glorified its victorious war Presi- 
dent who was thereupon assured of renomination. But the 
reform element of the Republican Party was progressively 
lukewarm and the 1900 ticket needed a liberal reformer to 
win back those postwar recalcitrants who disliked McKinley's 
big-business bias. That man was Theodore Roosevelt By nomi- 
nating him for Vice-President, the Mark Hanna-TBoss" Platt 
combine thought they had shelved Teddy Roosevelt forever 
and deprived him of the Governor's chair at Albany. They 
reckoned with everything but fate. 

Teddy Roosevelt had become a national war hero, partly 
because he was supposed to have led the heroic charge up 
San Juan Hill, which is at least debatable. At any rate, Teddy 
Roosevelt came back home a candidate for everything, He had 
had a splendid record in the New York State legislature from 
1881 to 1884. Then he had backed James G. Elaine and lost 
Ms own reform following. Disgusted with politics and the 
effete East, Theodore Roosevelt had gone West where he failed 
as a rancher but learned much of value to him later as Chief 
Executive of a nation progressively aware of its frontier. His 
political repudiation and the deaths of his beloved wife and 
mother within the same twenty-four-hour period had very 
nearly broken his health. The West restored it. 

T.R. came back from Dakota Territory in 1886 and inevita- 
bly plunged at once into politics. He was defeated for Mayor 
of New York but the Republican Party was beginning to 
notice him again, and in 1889 President Harrison appointed 
Mm to the Civil Service Commission, where he stayed for 
six years. Civil Service as this country knows it today owes 
much to Teddy Roosevelt's vigor and honesty in that office. 

From 1895 to 1897, T.R. was head of the civilian board 

Trust-Busts Changes in the Presidency 155 

which ran the New York City Police Department. Few poli- 
ticians ever nibbed more crooked ward heelers the wrong way 
or made more personal enemies in the name of reform, for 
T.R. vigorously and continuously called a spade a spade. But 
his name was beginning to shine, his reputation to widen, his 
word to count for something when, in 1897, President Mc- 
Kinley appointed him, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a post 
his presidential cousin FranHin also held at a later date. 

When the war with Spain broke out ? Teddy Roosevelt re- 
signed to organize witE^Eeonard Wood the volunteer regiment 
known to history as the Rough Riders. No such glamorous 
cavalry troop had galloped across the American mind since 
J.E.B. Stuart's, and Stuart had been an unspeakable Rebel. 

T.R. was, therefore, a genuine, fourteen-carat popular hero 
by war's end. It was inevitable that he should be a foremost 
candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor of his 
home state, New York, a fact which galled Thomas C. ("Boss'*) 
Platt and disturbed the sleep of many another entrenched Re- 
publican politician. So Platt, after consultation with Mark 
Hanna and, of course, William McKinley, made an apparently 
clever move. He began beating the drums for Teddy Roosevelt 
as McKinley's running mate on the next national ticket* The 
vice-presidential nomination had buried political hopes before. 
It seemed a sure-Bre scheme for ridding New York of one of 
its most pesky and successful reform politicians, a type "Ross** 
Platt loathed. 

Teddy Roosevelt tells in his own words the first inklings he 
had had that some liberals in the Republican Party genuinely 
wished him, to be Governor of New York: 1 

It was Mr. L. E. Quigg [an independent Republican 
leader] who called on me at Montauk Point to sound me 
about the Governorship; Mr, Platt being by no means en- 
thusiastic over Mr. Quigg's mission, largely because he dis- 
approved of the Spanish War and of my part in bringing it 
about. Mr. Quigg saw me in my tent [at headquarters of 
the First Volunteer Cavalry the Rough Riders] . . . and 

i. The Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt, Centennial Edition (New 

York, diaries Sciibner's Sons, 1958), pp. 147-69. 


spoke very frankly to me, stating that he earnestly desired 
to see me nominated and believed that the great body of 
Republican voters in the State so desired, but that the organ- 
ization and the State Convention would finally do what 
Senator Platt desired. He said that county leaders were al- 
ready coming to Senator Platt, hinting at a close election, 
expressing doubt of Governor Black's availability for re-elec- 
tion, and asking why it would not be a good thing to nomi- 
nate me; that now that I had returned to the United States 
this would go on more and more all the time, and that he 
[Quigg] did not wish that these men should be discouraged 
and be sent back to their localities to suppress a rising senti- 
ment in my favor. 

For this reason he said that he wanted from me a plain 
statement as to whether or not I wanted the nomination, 
and as to what would be my attitude toward the organiza- 
tion in the event of my nomination and election, whether or 
not I would "make war" on Mr. Platt and his friends, or 
whether I would confer with them and with the organiza- 
tion leaders generally, and give fair consideration to their 
point of view as to party policy and public interest. He said 
he had not come to make me any offer of the nomination, 
and had no authority to do so, nor to get any pledges or 
promises. He simply wanted a frank definition of my attitude 
toward existing party conditions. 

To this I replied that I should like to be nominated, and 
if nominated would promise to throw myself into the cam- 
paign with all possible energy. I said that I should not make 
war on Mr. Platt or anybody else if war could be avoided; 
that what I wanted was to be Governor and not a faction 
leader; that I certainly would confer with organization men, 
as with everybody else who seemed to me to have knowledge 
of and interest in public affairs, and that as to Mr. Platt and 
the organization leaders, I would do so in the sincere hope 
that there might always result harmony of opinion and pur- 
pose; but that while I would try to get on well with the 
organization, lie organization must with equal sincerity 
strive to do what I regarded as essential for the public good; 
and that in every case, after full consideration of what every- 
body had to say who might possess real knowledge of the 
matter, I should have to act finally as my own judgment 

Trust-Busts Changes in the Presidency 157 

and conscience dictated and administer the State govern- 
ment as I thought it ought to be administered. 

The Republican Committeemen soon realized they needed 
a man of T.R.'s courage and drive to win the 1898 Governor- 
ship and, accordingly, their leaders were in what T.R. himself 
called "a chastened mood*' and ready to accept any candidate 
with whom they thought they had a chance of winning. 2 
Senator Platt finally picked T.R. He was, said Roosevelt later, 
entirely frank in the matter, making no pretense that he liked 
him, but deferring to the judgment of those who insisted that 
Teddy was the only man who could win the election. His 
judgment was confirmed when T.R. squeaked through by only 
18,000 votes over Augustus Van Wyck. 

There had always been considerable opposition to the Re- 
publican machine and "Boss" Platt but, as T.R. pointed out in 
Ms autobiography, 3 reform leadership was "apt to be found 
only among those whom Abraham Lincoln called the 'silk- 
stockings.* " Much as reform excited the leadership of the silk- 
stocking districts, it seemed in those times to result in derision 
among the plain people approximately equal to their anger or 
dislike of machine politics. Teddy Roosevelt puts it very 
nicely: 4 

When reformers of this type attempted to oppose Mr. 
Platt, they usually put up either some rather inefficient, 
well-meaning person, who bathed every day, and didn't 
steal, but whose only good point was "respectability/* and 
who knew nothing of the great fundamental questions loom- 
ing before us; or else they put up some big business man 
or corporation lawyer who was wedded to the gross wrong 
and injustice of our economic system, and who neither by 
personality nor by programme gave the ordinary plain peo- 
ple any belief that there was promise of vital good to them 
in the change. 

T.R. was silk-stocking, all right; but he was much more. Of 
a prosperous and distinguished family, T.R. had been edu- 

2. Ibid. 9 p. 147. 

3. Ibid., p. 151. 

4. Ibid. 


cated by private tutors, graduated from Harvard, and had 
studied law at Columbia. Every move he made was made with 
hyperglandular vigor and self-righteous sroreness. He was 
barely forty when the nation hailed him for his war exploits 
and elected him Governor of New York. Indeed, his egotism 
shone through every page he wrote and Mr. Dooley said of 
him that his widely read story of the Rough Riders lacked a 
subtitle: "Alone In Cuba" 

But self-confident and silk-stockinged as he undeniably was, 
Teddy Roosevelt was made up of other qualities more im- 
portant to the offices he held and the people he served. He 
was a thoroughgoing democrat; he possessed deep religious 
feeling for the underdog, social or economic. Roosevelt was 
above all things impetuous. In the popular mind, the boyish, 
boisterous quality of T.R.'s outbursts "gave the appearance of 
sheer energy turned loose without benefit of sober thought." 5 

This explosion of boundless vitality was likely to attract at- 
tention, but his impulsive and emotional nature wasn't likely 
to wean sober businessmen to his standard. Yet the business- 
men were wrong. T.R. was no temperamental schoolgirl; his 
own moral standards were far above the standards of his day, 
and he was absolutely appalled at the amoral atmosphere in 
which public and private business were transacted. Honest to 
the core, T.R. believed others should be honest, too not 
honest in the traditional business sense, but completely, 
openly, painfully honest Honest in the Lincoln tradition of 
walking miles to return a 6^ overcharge; honest to a point 
where his admirers, long tired of the novelty of a moral issue 
and perhaps even threatened with inconvenience or financial 
loss, could say with feeling that he had gone too far in his 
exuberant, egotistical crusades. Once embarked, T.R. never 
turned back, continuing lie hammer blows against evil until 
the plague spot was fully eradicated. 6 

Henry F. Pringle, one of Teddy Roosevelfs most successful 
and perceptive biographers, points out that his military repu- 

5. Peter R. Levin, Seven By Chance (New York, Farrar, Straus and 

Company, 1948), p. 179. 

6. Ibid. 

Trust-Busts Changes in the Presidency 159 

tation never impressed Army men. 7 One reason for this was 
an unforgettable picture of a tactician who measured his battle 
successes by the length of the casualty lists. As in much of 
T.R/s scholarship and learning > his references and reasons 
were often spotty and his conclusions warped through monu- 
mental bias and self-righteousness. He preferred to prove a 
thesis, to rationalize his own stand, rather than lead up to 
logical conclusions. This professional military men simply 
couldn't abide; and of all the weaknesses of Theodore Roose- 
velt (and he had more than his share for a man constantly 
in the limelight) rationalization was undeniably the most 
flagrant and unappetizing. Yet the very breadth of his inter- 
ests, the scope of his vision, his catholicity of taste, and the 
general warmth with which he approached anything or anyone 
somehow helped his time and history to forgive his flaws. 
Deeper concentration, Peter Levin feels, in any one subject, 
"may well have cost him his amazing touch.* 8 This is undeni- 
ably and perceptively accurate. Indeed, the wideness of T.R.'s 
fabulous horizon is matched in the Presidency only by Jeffer- 
son and T.R/S young cousin, Franklin. 

T.R/S very appearance set off deeply grounded loyalties and 
hatreds. There were those close to him who glowed under his 
compliments and would swear he loved them and all the 
world. Yet there were always those for whom his personality 
was an antagonizing red flag. Though T.R., to his perpetual 
credit, admitted that he possessed only an ordinary mind 
encased in an endlessly energetic body, his sententiousness 
appalled many sober people, liberals and conservatives alike. 
These became his perpetual adversaries, citizens he could 
never convert, even to the best of purposes. Levin writes: 9 

To them, the crackling epithets and pithy sentences were 
infuriating. His famous teeth and the drooping moustache 
useful in producing a wide grin or an expression of ferocious 
anger were hostilely thought the mask of a poseur. The 

7. Henry F. Pringle, Theodore Roosevelt, a Biography (New York, 
Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1931), passim. 

8. Levin, op. c&., p. 181. 

9. Ibid., p. 182. 


furious gestures merely emphasized an absence of construc- 
tive thinking and the man's incredible narrowmindedness. 
And Roosevelt's part in the creation of these hatreds was 
considerable. His opponents were never to be reconciliated; 
they were to be damned. Impkcably he went after them; a 
mistaken opinion became an arrant sin; a criticism or a re- 
jection a personal affront. In "malefactors of great wealth/* 
in "muckrakers,** in "reformers," and in "anarchists" he found 
little to commend. Their disagreement with him or with his 
methods he answered with all the picturesqueness of his 

For such a man, close-mouthed conservatives like "Boss" 
Platt and Mark Hanna could come to have only fear and con- 
tempt fear that their neat little apple carts would suddenly 
be dumped over, contempt for self-righteous ego and infuri- 
ating temperament It was not long after T.R. became Gov- 
ernor that Platt wholeheartedly regretted what he had 
reluctantly agreed to. As fear and contempt turned in the 
boss's mind to outrageous anger at the new Governor, smoke- 
filled meetings began to take place with the national election 
of 1900 ever higher on the agenda. Some means simply must 
be found to rid New York State of the menace of Colonel 
Roosevelt. The Vice-Presidency seemed a logical sidetrack. 

Two years of sorrow had followed T.R.'s election to Albany. 
The Governor rapped the knuckles cf New York City traction 
interests that "Boss" Platt adored; the Governor held a tight 
rein on political patronage; the Governor opened salvo after 
salvo at corruptions so close to home that Platt and his cronies 
could scarcely bear to open the morning papers. Something 
creative simply had to be done, particularly in view of the 
fact that T.R. soon told Platt he wanted a second two-year 
term in 1900 and would pursue it with all his considerable 
energy. Re-election would inevitably put Governor Roosevelt, 
as chief of the country's most populous and prosperous state, 
directly in line to succeed President McKinley in 1904. 

Platt persisted; it was too great a poker pot to give up. And 
little by little the ambitious Colonel began to take seriously 
what had originally been in Platt's Machiavellian mind only a 

Trust-Busts Changes in the Presidency 161 

clever maneuver to sidetrack a dangerous and unappetizing 
Republican hero. Roosevelt at first told friends that he couldn't 
see himself presiding over the Senate and keeping his opinions 
to himself, as he would have to do, except in case of a tie. 
John Hay, now head of the Department of State, and a warm 
friend of T.R., offered sensible advice: he told the Governor 
that no Vice-President had ever been "elected by violence.** 
But if T.R. didn't go after the vice-presidential spot under 
McKinley he might find himself in the position of being 
drafted by the bosses and beholden to them. Platt might 
manipulate the convention delegates and put T.R. on the ticket 
in spite of himself, knowing the loyal Colonel would never 
refuse to serve his country if nominated and elected. 

Something else made the energetic young Governor take the 
vice-presidential gambit seriously. Platt still had immense 
power among those who would nominate the Republican can- 
didate for Governor in 1900. If Platt dictated his own candi- 
date for the Governorship, T.R/s elective career was probably 
at an end. Positions on government pay rolls he might still 
secure he might even be appointed Secretary of the Navy as 
a sop from. Platt. But the Presidency was not an appointive 
office though it was in those days a hand-picked Domination, 
and those who picked and chose were men like "Boss" Platt. 
When they had chosen, on both sides, the people voted, but 
the people voted only on presidential candidates the profes- 
sional bosses had picked to oppose one another. 

Soon, fewer and fewer disclaimers came from Albany as to 
a place on the national ticket. Mark Hanna may have wanted 
to succeed McKinley himself, but in any case he relished king- 
making more. When he learned of Platt's maneuver to place 
T.R. in the Vice-Presidency and thus remove hina not only 
from Albany but as a threat in 1904 (the Vice-Presidency was 
more of a political sidetrack in those days than it is now), 
Hanna cried out prophetically, "Don't any of you realize that 
there is only one life between that madman and the Presi- 
dency? What harm can he do as Governor of New York com- 
pared to the damage he will do as President if McKinley 
should die?" 


Although Hanna was reluctant and wary, he gave in finally, 
and the Republican Convention of 1900 screamed itself out for 
the Rough Rider, the vital and outspoken Colonel who ap- 
pealed to commoner and patrician alike but who made an 
almost equal number apprehensive. There was no middle 
ground with Teddy Roosevelt he had the sort of personality 
you either loved or despised. It was, moreover, in violent con- 
trast to President McKinley's. 

Everywhere Theodore Roosevelt went during the presi- 
dential campaign and he made more political speeches than 
any vice-presidential candidate had ever made before Re- 
publicans flocked to hear birr* rip and tear at William Jennings 
Bryan for the Great Commoner's "doctrines of anarchy." Mc- 
Kinley, by contrast, scarcely made a speech. He simply issued 
solemn bulletins from Canton, Ohio, or from the White House, 
the prototype of the front-porch campaign. 

On November 6, 1900, T.R.'s magic showed in the ballot; 
Bryan proved even less popular than he had been in 1896. 
McKinley picked up almost a quarter of a million votes while 
Bryan lost more than 100,000 in the popular total. McKinley 
had won by 271 to 176 in the electoral college four years previ- 
ously. With T.R. Ms running mate, McKinley's electoral ma- 
jority swelled to 292 to 155. 

If anything about the hyperconservative inauguration on 
March 4, 1901, could be called sensational it was the volume 
of publicity that a Vice-President of the United States was 
being accorded for the first time. T.R. felt he had made a wise 
decision in leaving New York, and "Boss" Platt privately con- 
gratulated himself for having conjured it up. Albany was his 
once again. 

To imagine the impetuous T.R. sitting still hour after hour, 
as all Vice-Presidents must do as presiding officers of the 
United States Senate, strains and taxes the imagination. Cer- 
tainly it would have irked Roosevelt beyond endurance had 
he continued for long in the unfamiliar sedentary role. He con- 
fided in family and friends that he might take a job in a 
nearby university teaching history to pass the time when the 
Senate was not in session. It simply wasn't done in those days 

Trust-Busts Changes in the Presidency 163 

for a Vice-President to be as active politically or ceremonially 
as Richard M. Nixon in his two terms under Eisenhower. 

T.E, also considered studying more law so he might have 
some profession if Ms star grew dim. By midsummer 1901, with 
fewer than six months o the Vice-Presidency behind him, he 
seems to have kept Ms sanity and hope only because certain 
newspaper editors wished to maintain his name in the public 
eye, with, a view to 1904 when McKinley would not be eligible 
again. A series of American speaking tours was suggested, and 
Teddy Roosevelt leaped to the lure like a trout to a royal 
coachman. He never had time to fulfill the tour. For, on Sep- 
tember 6, President McKinley absorbed his fatal wound while 
speaking in Buffalo. A week and a day later McElnley was 
dead, 10 gracefully accepting his fate by a faltering recital of 
"Nearer My God to Thee." Platt's best laid plans had exploded 
in his face. 

A brash political youngster was now, suddenly, at forty-two, 
President of the United States, our youngest White House in- 
cumbent. William Allen WMte recalls in his Autobiography 11 
that what seemed most worrisome to the new President was 
not the sudden burden of office, wMch he absorbed as though 
bom to it, but the depressing thought that, even if re-elected 
in 1904, over Hanna's certain opposition, he would be barely 
fifty-one when he would have to retire from the Presidency. 
As things worked out he had a right to fret. Meddlesome by 
nature, TJEL's years of "retirement" never kept him far from 
the national spotlight and gravely affected the lives of William 
Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson, among uncountable 

Up to now, Teddy Roosevelt had been a sort of brash po- 
litical joke, amusing to some, nauseating to others. Now, older 
and more stable figures Elihu Root, John Hay, and Mark 
Hanna did not know precisely what to call him in private 
and ended up using "Theodore," "Teddy," and occasionally 

10. Leon Czolgosz was executed on October 29 for McKInley's 
murder, and the Secret Service was at last given a fair chance at keeping 
safe the most precious man in the United States government. 

11. William Allen White, Autobiography (New York, The Macmillan 
Company, 1946), p. 339. 


"Mr. President" if a third person was around. Mark Hanna 
swallowed Ms suspicions and Ms pride, Ms dread fear that 
the talkative cowboy would unthinkingly turn the world up- 
side down. Indeed, Hanna gently suggested to the upstart 
President that he go slow, take things easy for a wMIe, not 
only for his own political sake but for the sake of a country 
shocked to the core at the third presidential assassination in 
thirty-six years. Conservatives seconded Hanna. Listen to 
everyone, make no snap Judgments, be certain when you fi- 
nally move this, Hanna told the young man, made more sense 
than any other course of action. Roosevelt gratefully received 
every conservative leader in both houses of Congress, at his 
own invitation. 

Nothing in the first messages to Congress suggested that 
President Roosevelt was further to the left than McKinley had 
been. 12 Indeed, conservatives on the whole were relieved and 
foresaw seven more years of "McEanleyisnT: Mgh tariffs, cor- 
poration mergers, standpat legislation, accumulation of enor- 
mous wealth by the select industrial few, no new tax measures, 
hard money,, little or no reform. The American public didn't 
seem to care much. It was relieved that no great sociological 
crises were imminent and was fascinated by tie strenuous new 
occupant of the WMte House whose athletic feats, epigram- 
matic language, youthful vigor, and political color were a 
vaudeville show in themselves. 

Just when or why Teddy Roosevelt became the trust buster 
we know Mm to be Mstorically cannot be pinpointed to an 
hour or a day. All that can be accurately determined is the 
date of Ms first essay into the battle against the economic 
royalist, soon after J. P. Morgan had the Northern Securities 
Company incorporated in November, 1901, for purposes of 
ending tie competition between the Great Northern, 
ton, and Northern Pacific Railroads. 

Why did Teddy Roosevelt attack as he did? To begin with, 
he found WasMngton, Jackson, and Lincoln stimulating Pres- 
idents, men who had used the Presidency as a tool, who had 
been creative in legislation, not constantly operating in the 

12,. Theodore Roosevelt Papers. 

Trust-Busts Changes in the Presidency 165 

passive voice. Washington had leaned toward Alexander 
Hamilton's theory of a strong central government and, while 
refusing monarchy for himself, strongly endorsed the view 
that the President of the United States was the President of 
the United States, not simply a social figurehead but the repre- 
sentation of the flag, the Republic, and the people as well as 
chief executive officer of prevailing political opinion. In no 
other large country, T.R. knew, were all of these functions 
wrapped up in a single office. The British had their kings and 
queens and a "Prime Minister besides. The French had a Pre- 
mier as well as a President In the American Presidency alone 
both offices were combined into a single personality, 

Teddy Roosevelt heartily disliked die memory of Thomas 
Jefferson, in spite of the Virginian's belief in the common man. 
Of Jefferson, T.R. once said that bis worship as founder of 
the Democratic Party was a ^discredit to my country." Besides, 
Jefferson's doctrine of local and state's rights (repudiated when 
he purchased Louisiana on Ms own) was anathema to a vital, 
strenuous forty-three-year-old now beginning to enjoy every 
moment of power. 

Jackson fascinated Teddy Roosevelt, perhaps because Jack- 
son was the most outrageous President before him. Nothing 
could be innately wrong with wielding enormous personal 
power if that power were directed to the good of plain people. 
A President was no office boy to Congress, but a "steward of 
the people," responsible directly to them since they had per- 
sonally voted the President into office. It mattered not that not 
one American had cast a ballot in 1900 for Theodore Roosevelt 
as President of the United States. Now that he was President 
he meant to use his enormous vitality in behalf of the plain 
people: creatively, actively, powerfully, as Lincoln had done. 
The precedent of the founder of the Republican Party was 
for T.R. more than enough to go on. The people simply had 
to have a champion and the President had to be that man. 
There was no other in the plain man's corner. 

Men often admire other men they wish they were. Qualities 
in one man which appeal to another often parallel the capabili- 
ties, background, hopes, and potential of the admirer. So it 


was with Teddy Roosevelt: a vigorous Iranian being, he ad- 
mired vigor and creativity. He could not possibly have hero- 
worshiped the do-nothing James Buchanan, yet was hopelessly 
attracted to the forceful Jackson and the strongly moral 
Lincoln. Egotistical and self-assured, Theodore Roosevelt 
found things admirable in Napoleon which Thomas Jefferson 
had not. 

If Mark Hanna or those conservatives in business and indus- 
try whose fears had been quieted had known that all this was 
still very much a part of the Eoosevelt personality, their faith 
in the future would surely have been shaken. Though President 
Roosevelt had promised faithfully to continue "absolutely un- 
broken" McKinley's policies and disposition of the Presidency, 
the economic royalty of his time should have hesitated to be- 
lieve such a metamorphosis. Little in T.R/s past as civic re- 
former, naval administrator, soldier, or Governor could have 
deluded any logical person for long that spots would change 
with a new oath of office. Big business was used to getting 
its own way. Truly it was the royalty of the economy. And, as 
so often happens to royalty of any sort, continuous power was 
not only corrupting but self-deluding. 

Levin feels that Theodore Roosevelt's reputation for radical- 
ism is overblown. 18 His trust-busting, his friendliness with 
organized labor, his fight to conserve the nation's natural re- 
sources., the reactionary nature of his enemies, his forthright 
and picturesque speech and manner, his running again for 
President as an independent Bull Mooser in 1912 have created 
a legend that is false, for T.R, was close to the middle of the 
road in almost every act as President. But what was the middle 
of the road to the people and Theodore Roosevelt in 1901 was 
dangerously radical nonsense to the contemporary industrial 
monopolist who had, until then, escaped much of the punishing 
social legislation long a legal fact in Europe. Levin goes on: 14 

Exactly when he took cognizance of the progressivism that 
was boiling beneath the McKinley prosperity is difficult to 
determine. Before his ascent to tie White House he had 

13. Levin, op. cit. f p. 317. 

14. Ibid. 

Trust-Busts Changes in the Presidency 167 

displayed leanings toward reform and the correction of some 
of capitalism's grosser abuses; but he had always been pulled 
back to the Republican line when party leaders waxed less 
enthusiastic than did he. The Presidency, however, had made 
Kim leader of his party. Where a young assemblyman could 
be forced to subside and an unruly Governor shelved in the 
Vice-Presidency, a Chief Executive could not be fought by 
his nominal backers with impunity. 

Conservatives were as yet unaffected by an almost universal 
journalistic assault on big business and monopoly. Although 
the Sherman Anti-Trust Act had languished on the statute 
books for a decade, almost totally abandoned by Presidents 
Harrison and McKinley, its effectiveness had been further re- 
duced as a result of the Supreme Court's 1895 rulings. In this 
context it is not surprising that when T.R. opened fire on J.P. 
Morgan's railroad consolidation in November, 1901, big busi- 
ness was shocked to the core. Morgan tried to negotiate in 
Washington but his mission failed. Theodore Roosevelt had 
charted the ship of state on a new and vital mission: the 
busting of trusts inimical to the interests of the plain people. 
This venture was formalized in St. Paul, Minnesota, on March 
io s 1902, when suit was filed against the merger by the Fed- 
eral attorney for the Minnesota district. 

President Roosevelt was quickly assailed by once friendly 
businessmen and political conservatives. He was now a Judas, 
a disrespecter of adjudicated law, turncoat, and hypocrite. 
There was no choice in his vigorous soul but to take his cru- 
sade to the people, and take it he did. He made one speech 
after another, pleading in every section of the land for sup- 
port to his crusade. How many millions heard him no sensible 
man could guess and it is well to remember that the loud- 
speaker, radio, and television were still in the future. Speeches 
to multitudes were strenuous physical facts in T.R/S strenuous 

The President made three points plain everywhere he spoke: 
he was overwhelmingly in favor of capitalism and free-enter- 
prise economics; he was not opposed to corporations but he 
held them accountable to government; and again and again 


be made the point of distinction between good business prac- 
tice and bad, men who kept the public good in mind and evil 
men who damned the public. Had the phrase "malefactors of 
great wealth** been coined he would surely have used it T.R. 
didn't think of it until 1907. 

The common man came to hear him everywhere. He was 
cheered to the echo by liberals heartsick at America's humiliat- 
ing disregard of the trust evil. Labor unions made Mm their 
champion. To many a working man in the era of the twelve-to- 
fourteen-hour day, bad wages, dangerous machinery, nauseat- 
ing child labor, and bleak old age, here was a genuine Messiah. 

Union League clubs shuddered as they listened to his logic, 
couched in more moderate terms on Chestnut Street than in 
Union Square. It was said at the time that the President used 
the White House only to come back to for fresh linen. News- 
paper writing verged on hysteria, divided between those who 
foresaw anarchy and Bolshevism and those who hailed the 
prophet of long overdue enlightenment 

The Northern Securities Company case took more than two 
years to make its frustrated way through the labyrinth of lower 
Federal courts. On March 14, 1904, it reached the decisive 
stage in the Supreme Court. Four of the eminent justices ruled 
that the Sherman Anti-Trust Act had been enacted to forbid 
all combinations in restraint of trade, whether reasonable or 
unreasonable. One justice argued that those who wrote the 
law had had in mind only unreasonable combinations, but he 
voted to order the Northern Securities Company dissolved be- 
cause he found it unreasonably in restraint of trade. A witticism 
of the time had it that Teddy had won his case 41 to 43L It is 
an interesting sidelight that Oliver Wendell Holmes, long re- 
garded as one of our most liberal justices, voted for J. P. 
Morgan and Big Business against the President in a highly 
sarcastic dissenting opinion. 

But the President was satisfied, as well he might have been. 
His wide-ranging speaking tour was now justified. He had 
championed the cause of die common man and been cheered 
to the rafters by him, and he and the people had won. The 
narrowness of the vote meant nothing in view of the court's 

Trust-Busts Changes in the Presidency 169 

vindication of presidential executive power. In many ways T.K. 
was to regard this as "one of the great achievements" o his 
first term, 15 one of the few understatements Theodore Roosevelt 
ever uttered. 

President Roosevelt had asked for a Department of Com- 
merce and Labor. Congress had overlooked his request until 
a vice-president of Standard Oil made the mistake of lobbying 
against the idea by sending mcraninating telegrams to The 
Hill instead of the usual verbal persuasions. T.R. smelled his 
chance, called in the press, informed them of the telegraphic 
barrage, and arbitrarily changed the sender to John D. Rocke- 
feller, whose name alone was enough to inflame the tmst- 
conscious public. Within a week T.R. had his new Department 
of Commerce and Labor and, most important, a Bureau of 
Corporations with unprecedented powers of Federal inquiry 
and investigations. 

It has been said of the Roosevelt Presidents that they and all 
their tribe had an extra gland. It has also been said that they 
were born with political antennae which gave them unerring 
instincts when to act and also when not to act. Theodore Roose- 
velt, having proved the first statement by his limitless and 
energetic demonstration of presidential power, now set out to 
prove the second. He became suddenly aware of the presi- 
dential campaign of 1904 and its financial requirements. 

Until after Ms re-election, T.R. made no major moves to 
implement the trust information his new Secretary of Com- 
merce and Labor, George B. Cortelyou, had been piling up 
for almost two years. Only when the political war chests had 
been filled by placated industrialists and corporations and T.R. 
had become President in his own right did he return to the 
battleground on which he was to say that even the most power- 
ful men in the United States were held accountable before 
the law. 

The new Department of Commerce and Labor was at first a 
very inoffensive body. 16 Any investigations and inquisitions so 
feared by big business were not to begin until after Election 

15. Theodore Roosevelt Papers. 

16. Piingle, op. eft,, p. 342, 


Day T.R. saw to that with unerring instinct. No doubt can 
exist, says Henry Pringle, that Theodore Roosevelt, as the 1904 
convention drew near, was playing politics in his own behalf. 17 
Expediency dictated some o his appointments and he was 
trimming sail on the trust-busting tack for months before the 

T.R. cleverly ignored Mark Hanna's growing signs of cor- 
diality, finally writing his son Ted: "Senator Hanna . . . has 
been intoxicated by the thought that perhaps he could be 
nominated himself, or at least dictate the nomination." 18 

The President was progressively unkind to the aging Hanna, 
whom he detested politically and who was in an increasingly 
difficult position as to 1904. Roosevelt said in May, 1903, in 
the state of Washington: "I have not asked any man for his 
support. I have had nothing whatever to do with raising the 
issue as to my endorsement. Sooner or later it was bound to 
arise, and, inasmuch as it has now arisen, of course those who 
favor my administration and nomination will endorse them, 
and those who do not will oppose them." 

Through the spring of 1903, Roosevelt kept making it ap- 
pear that Hanna opposed his nomination; step by step Hanna 
had to retreat from the point of one who had opposed T.R/s 
re-election and perhaps even wanted the nomination for "him- 
self to a humiliated supporter of a second term. Happily for 
the Republicans, the two men came together before tie year 
1904 began, for Hanna, who was by now sixty-six, became 
seriously ill in February and died on the 15th of that month. 
The honeyed obituary notices published in Republican papers 
had little to say about Mark Hanna's traditional wickedness, 
of his dalliance with despotic wealth, of the corruption often 
kid to his door in the raising of campaign funds. Even T.R. 
penned a fond obituary notice, pointing out how Hanna had 
supported him without question after McKinley had died. "He 
was a big man in every way," T.R. wrote. 19 

The renomination of Theodore Roosevelt had now been 

17. Ilrid. 9 passim. 

18. Theodore Roosevelt Papers, 

19. Ibid. 

Trust-Busts Changes in the Presidency 171 

made certain but Ms re-election had not. Being President, 
T.R. could not in those days go on the stump. This tradition 
has long since been shattered by another Roosevelt, but it was 

then ironbound. The New Jork World destroyed the cam- 
paign's lethargy with an eight-column editorial signed by Jo- 
seph Pulitzer on October i complaining that in the year and a 
half o its existence the Bureau of Corporations of the new 
Department of Commerce and Labor had done absolutely 
nothing and, by a funny coincidence, Mr. Cortelyou, the de- 
partment head, was the new Republican National Chairman 
succeeding Hanna. Pulitzer suggested that the big corpora- 
tions pouring money into the Republican campaign assumed 
they were buying protection from Mr. Cortelyou's inquiries. 
It was too pat, said Pulitzer: the sudden cessation of trust- 
busting simultaneous with a perfect flood of big corporation 
funds to be placed at the disposal of the man the President had 
picked to break up monopolies, mergers, cartels, trusts, and 
other combinations in restraint of trade against the public weaL 
Oddly enough, Alton B. Parker, the Democratic candidate, 
did nothing with Pulitzer's editorial charges for more than a 
month. Naturally, T.R. didn't acknowledge them, since Parker 
hesitated. But when Parker made the mistake on November 
3 of baldly calling the corporation donations "blackmail/* 
made in return for silence in regard to damaging facts collected 
in the trust and merger surveys of the Bureau of Corporations, 
the President was quick to reply. Parker had lost the election 
then and there, if indeed he'd ever had a chance of winning, 
which is doubtful Roosevelt said: 20 

That contributions have been made ... is not the ques- 
tion at issue. . . . Mr, Parker's accusations against Mr. Cortel- 
you and me are monstrous. If true they would brand both 

of us forever with infamy; and inasmuch as they are false, 
heavy must be the condemnation of the man making them. 
. . . The assertion that Mr. Cortelyou had any knowledge, 
gained while in an official position, whereby lie was enabled 
to secure and did secure any contributions from any corpor- 
ation is a falsehood. The assertion that there has been any 

20. Presidential Addresses, Vol. Ill, pp. 97-100. 


blackmail, direct or indirect, by Mr. Cortelyou or by me is 
a falsehood. The assertion that there has been made any 
pledge or promise or that there has been any understanding 
as to future immunities or benefits, in recognition of any 
contribution from any source, is a wicked falsehood. 

Since everyone knew and believed in T.R/s explicit honesty, 
painfully blunt at times but a beacon in the wilderness of 
political hypocrisy and cant, and since the complete and 
unequivocal denial rang true with the known facts and the 
character of both T.R. and Cortelyou, Parker issued no further 
communications. It had been an ill-starred venture and the 
Democrats did not thank Pulitzer for it. Indeed, the famous 
publisher was in the political doghouse as a result of a truth- 
ful editorial. 

The President was elected on November 8 to his own first 
four-year term; now he was at last in truth the people's choice. 
He swamped the Democrats by 336 to 140 in the electoral 
college and by a popular majority of more than two and a half 
million, most decisive of all Republican victories up to that 
time. Pringle points out that "in his ecstasy of joy ... he 
issued a statement that was to cause him poignant regret" in 
the years to come: "On the 4th of March next I shall have 
served three and a half years and this . . . constitutes my first 
term. The wise custom which limits the President to two terms 
regards the substance and not the form; and under no circum- 
stances will I be a candidate for or accept another nomina- 
tion." 21 

But Pulitzer had had a point, as it turned out. T.R. had in- 
deed been trimming sail on the trust tack with election storm 
clouds on the horizon. There was a gift of $125,000 from Stand- 
ard Oil, $48,000 from New York Life Insurance Company, and 
equivalent amounts from Mutual and Equitable. E. H. Harri- 
dan, the railroad baron, had donated $50,000 and collected 
$100,000 more for T.R/s campaign funds. In fact, it became 
public knowledge later that almost three-fourths of the $2,- 
195,000 collected for Theodore Roosevelt's 1904 campaign had 
come from corporations. J. P. Morgan had personally given 

21. New York World, November 9, 1904. 

Trust-Busts Changes in the Presidency 173 

$150,000, all of it in casli, while Edward T. Stotesbury, whose 
bank in Philadelphia had close connections with Morgan's, 
had collected $165,795.60 for the campaign. The New York, 
New Haven and Hartford Railroad had come through with 
$50,000; General Electric with $3,000; James Hazen Hyde with 
$25,000; H. C. Frick with $50,000; James Speyer with $25,000; 
James Stillman with $10,000. The list was endless. It also in- 
volved the worst investment any of these shrewd industrial 
and banking giants ever made. For, the day before his inaugu- 
ration, T.R. is supposed to have declared: "Tomorrow I shall 
come into my office in my own right. Then watch out for me!" 22 
T.R/s message to the new Congress was utterly innocuous in 
regard to trust-busting and merger-dissolving. There were re- 
assuring platitudes and a suggestion that Congress supervise 
insurance company transactions, then a developing scandal 
which was to bring the not inconsiderable talents of Charles 
Evans Hughes to the forefront. It remained for an address be- 
fore a dinner of the Union League Club in Philadelphia for 
T.R. to show the shape of things to come. The wealthy and 
substantial men of banking and industry who attended must 
have been shaken out of their brandy-and-cigars lethargy to 
hear the following quotation from the man whose successful 
campaign they had just financed: 

. . . the great development of industrialism means that 
there must be an increase in the supervision exercised by the 
Government over business-enterprise. . . . Such men as the 
members of this club should lead in the effort to secure 
proper supervision. . . . Neither this people nor any other 
free people will permanently tolerate the use of the vast 
power conferred by vast wealth , . . without lodging some- 
where in the Government the still higher power of seeing 
that this power is used for and not against the interests of 
the people as a whole. 

The newly elected President went on that the business of 
the United States was by now conducted in a way the founders 
of the nation could not possibly have anticipated, that all busi- 
ness transacted anywhere by a large corporation was in truth 

22. New York World, March 5, 1905. 


interstate and that the Federal government, not helpless state 
governments, would have to step in to control same. As for 
the venal railroads, they must be particularly policed by the 
national government. T.R. went on: 

... in temperate, resolute fashion there must be lodged 
in some tribunal the power over rates, and especially over 
rebates . . . which will protect alike the railroad and the 
shipper on an equal footing. . . . We do not intend that this 
Republic shall ever fail as those republics of olden tiines 
failed, in which there finally came to be a government by 
classes, which resulted either in the poor plundering the 
rich, or in the rich . . . exploiting the poor. 23 

The New Yorfe World immediately remarked: 24 

... an open almost a defiant challenge to the railway 
interests that opposed Federal regulation of rates and to the 
Republican leaders that have aligned themselves with the 
great corporate interests. . . . The President's speech shows 
that he has no intention of compromising with the corporate 
influences in his party. 

The annual message to Congress was less than two months 
cold, yet the fearful specter of broad-scale Federal interven- 
tion in private business was being raised anew by a man the 
Union League clubs of America had helped elect with their 
not inconsiderable influence and considerable monies. When 
William Jennings Bryan, anathema to any Union Leaguer, 
praised the speech as "perfectly sound,** the gage was cast for 

The Sherman Anti-Trust Act had been validated by Roose- 
velt's victory in the Northern Securities case, but T.R. felt, 
with justice, that the kw still wasn't adequate to protect the 
public against the unlimited power of the corporation octopus. 
One idea cropped up from a rereading of Bryan during a prior 
presidential campaign: Federal licensing of corporations. Elihu 
Boot advised Roosevelt not to do it because, said Root, licens- 
ing involved evils "far greater than its benefits." T.R. listened 

23. Presidential Addresses, Vol. HI, pp. 21724. 

24. New York World, January 31, 1905. 

Trust-Busts Changes in the Presidency 175 

to many another proposal for strengthening his antimonopoly 
forces but always came back to the sensible remedy he had 
proposed first as Governor of New York. The best corporation 
policy, he said again, lay in generous publicity of capitalization, 
earnings, and interlocking directorships. 

At Chautauqua, New York, on August 11, 1905, T.R. put it 
this way: 25 

I believe that all corporations engaged in interstate com- 
merce should be under the supervision of the national 
Government. ... It may be that we shall . . . require all 
corporations to produce proof . . . that they are not parties to 
. . . any violation of the anti-trust law and that . . . [they] 
shall agree, with a penalty of forfeiture of their right to en- 
gage in such commerce, to furnish any evidence of any kind 
as to their trade between the States whenever so required. 

To understand this point of view it is necessary to under- 
stand Theodore Roosevelt's fundamental precept that the Fed- 
eral government was sovereign and the President of the United 
States master of the ship. This viewpoint had by no means 
been shared by all other Presidents and in taking so strong a 
stand on it Theodore Roosevelt irrevocably changed the con- 
ception and powers of the Presidency. When in his message to 
Congress in December, 1905, T.R. said that U. S. corporations 
were "subjects without a sovereign" he added that a national 
license law might be a solution. By 1907 he was advocating 
such a statute because, as he put it, it wasn't a matter of de- 
stroying the free enterprise capitalistic system but simply "look- 
ing facts in the face.** 26 

To be accurate, Theodore Roosevelt did not personally bust 
many trusts. What he did was to set in motion the machinery 
for trust-busting, to create a climate in which mergers and 
monopolies contravening the public welfare could be dissolved 
and Federal laws enacted through which the common man 
might be protected from the evils of illegal combination. It is 
true that suits were begun against the tobacco and packing 

25. Presidential Addresses, Vol. IV, pp. 451-52. 
2,6. Theodore Roosevelt Papers. 


trusts, and tie New York Central Railroad was fined for 
giving huge rebates to the American Sugar Refining Company 
in restraint of free trade. But it wasn't until William Howard 
Taft was President of the United States that the Federal gov- 
ernment was able to order the American Tobacco Company 
and Standard Oil Company finally dissolved. 

T.R.'s title as "trust buster" was, lie would have been the first 
to admit, a technical misnomer. Taft instituted forty-five pro- 
ceedings leading to indictments under the Sherman Anti-Trust 
Act; Roosevelt instituted only twenty-five. But, says Pringle, 
"the significance of Roosevelt's corporation activities lay in what 
he said rather than what he did^ 

This is undeniably accurate. What Roosevelt accomplished 
was to progress against the "malefactors of great wealth*" 28 in 
order to head off the average man's unrest and uneasiness and 
forestall something he detested worse than his hatred for the 
economic royalist: socialism. 

He could complain to Ms friend Taft in 1906: tt l do not like 
the special conditions at present . . . the dull, purblind folly of 
the very rich men; their greed and arrogance . . . and the 
corruption in business and politics . . . [tending] to produce 
a very unhealthy condition of excitement and irritation in the 
popular mind, which shows itself in the great increase in the 
Socialistic propaganda.** 29 The at-home policies of President 
Roosevelt's second term were based chiefly on this growing 
fear which, time and again, he voiced in letters and speeches 
boiling down to the proposition that, in his opinion, the growth 
of the "Socialistic party is far more ominous than any Populist 
or similar movement in times past.** 

It is to T.R/s eternal credit that he, a patrician, realized with 
genius undeniably intuitive that there were evils in an un- 
fettered free enterprise capitalistic system then taken for 
granted in the United States and that, if these evils were not 
rooted out, the system itself might succumb and American 
democratic society with it. But Roosevelt's gifts for publicity 

27. Pringle, op. tit., p. 427. 

28. Presidential Addresses, VoL VI, pp. 1351-66. 

29. Letter from T.R. to Taft, March 15, 1906. 

Trust-Busts Changes in the Presidency 177 

and his flair for arousing the average man to insist that some- 
thing be done to correct an evil were unfortunately not 
matched by sound knowledge of economics. Like his Presi- 
dential cousin Franklin, economics and business details bored 
him. He lived and worked in a world of ideas, morals, philos- 
ophy, ego, and politics. He and F.D.R. had to learn their 
economics lessons in the White House, painfully but, in the 
end, well enough. To contemporaries, Theodore Roosevelt's 
abysmal lack of business training and intelligence in matters 
economic verged on ignorance. 

Yet smart men of his time Speaker Cannon and Senators 
Allison, Aldrich, Spooner, Foraker, and many more who knew 
their Adam Smith to the least comma had fewer forebodings 
of class war than did T.R., to whom such an event was not 
only possible but perhaps imminent On the other hand he 
could not, he knew by instinct, go too far. If he did he might 
cause a business slump (the panic of 1907 made a terrific im- 
pression on him) which would end in the dread Socialism he 
feared more than he hated the monopolist and merger-man. 
If he went so far as to alienate his own party he might turn 
over the reins of government when he retired in 1909 to the 
Democrats, an event which in his mind came near the top of 
the worst imaginable dangers to the country. 

Of Theodore Roosevelt's economic service to the average 
American, his war against railroad monopoly, illegal rebates, 
fixed rate charges, corruption, interlocking directorates, and 
public-be-damned philosophy in high places was, in the end, 
the most valuable and lasting. 

The Interstate Commerce Commission received new powers 
through the controversial Hepburn Act of 1906, a forward step 
which would never have become kw without Roosevelt's direct 
intervention and driving energy. By the Hepburn Act, tbe ICC 
now had jurisdiction over express, Pullman operations, storage, 
refrigeration, pipe lines, widened ratemaldng, and all other 
items covered by the tenuous phrase "transportation across 
state lines.** Rates theoretically had been a function of ICC. 
Now its police powers were strengthened to enforce its edicts. 
Honest accounting required under the new regulations ended 


in honest rate and rebate practices, to the glory and advantage 
of the average consumer, who for the first time had an ener- 
getic advocate in the White House. 

By Inauguration Day, 1909, when his friend William Howard 
Taft succeeded him (only to become his political enemy by 
1912)5 Theodore Roosevelt had set the stage for trust-busting. 

In doing so, T.R. had irrevocably altered the tradition of 
President of the United States and brought to the office a new 
and deep-rooted precedent that the occupant of the White 
House was to be thenceforward the people's champion and 
lobbyist, since they had no other. It was mandatory in Teddy 
Roosevelt's view that he be truly the Chief Executive in all 
matters, including that once forbidden land, the business- 
industrial world and its relationships with the public. Through 
the Federal government's first serious regulation and inter- 
vention under T.R., the immunity which economic royalists 
had perpetually taken for granted would never be the same 
again. A man who led a strenuous life had been in the White 
House and he expected his successors to emulate him. 

Woodrow Wilson 

THE TEACHING profession does not as a rule participate ac- 
tively in American politics. Contrary to prevailing opinion, 
people who teach are apt to be extremely practical people: 
they have to be to exist on the money they earn. The reason 
for their political nonpartieipation, therefore, isn't impractica- 
bility or woolly-headedness, or disinterest in the real world 
about them, or a taste for the theoretical in preference to the 
pragmatic. What they traditionally lack are two fundamental 
elements every man must possess in almost unlimited quantity 
if he is to run for public office: time and money. The teaching 
profession rarely has a sufficiency of either. 

Thomas Woodrow Wilson 1 was one of the rare exceptions, 
a university professor who possessed neither the time nor the 
money to run for public office, yet ran so successfully that he 
became Governor of New Jersey and President of the United 
States. As though to prove the rule, Wilson as Governor and 
President pushed through reforms in each body politic that 
were not only long overdue but seemed miracles of accomplish- 
ment. It was as though, having achieved the impossible by 
getting elected at all, the brilliant Princetonian could continue 

i. When Ike Hoover, (me of the chief ushers in the White House, went 
to Princeton to arrange for removal of the President's effects to Wash- 
ington, he noted that Wilson had autographed his own books in various 
ways: Thomas W. Wilson, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, T. W. Wilson, 
T. Woodrow Wilson, and Woodrow Wilson, as though, at various times, 
he hadn't made up his mind which by-line to use for which purpose. 



Ignores the Senate and 
Loses His Dream 

performing miracles indefinitely in an arena seldom if ever 
assailed by those who teach and theorize. 

Yet, in the end, when the miracle dissolved, Woodrow Wil- 
son had only himself and his extraordinary individualism to 
blame. He had done it on his own, without unlimited funds 
and with only the time he could set aside from constant 
teaching or writing. He had done it, in Trenton and Washing- 
ton, without overmuch help from the professional politician. 
In the end, his dream of a League of Nations was shattered 
because, having been kissed by fortune throughout an amazing 
voyage, he fell to depending upon himself and fortune alone. 
He ignored those who sought to advise him, repudiating the 
democratic muddling-through he should have known existed 
at all levels of political procedure and simply could not be 
ignored. He failed to take a delegation of Senators versed in 
foreign relations with him to the Paris peace conference. He 
left a former friend, Henry Cabot Lodge, cooling his heels for 
hours in an outer room of the White House and, in the end, 
Lodge, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Commit- 
tee, dynamited Wilson's precious project. 

Had Wilson come up the normal way, through local and 
state committees, through cloakroom bargains and daily poli- 
ticking at the precinct level, he would not have ignored the 
leaders of either political party, particularly Senators in whose 
hands the ultimate fate of any peace treaty must rest. Yet this 



is precisely wliat happened. Ignore them he did and, as the 
years went on, he became more and more the idealistic recluse 
who depended less and less on advice and the necessary re- 
quirements of political bargaining and more and more on his 
own (and Colonel House's) intuitive judgment. It cost him 
his dream. 

Wilson was a Virginian, a Princeton graduate and a lawyer 
first, before moving to Johns Hopkins to teach political science. 
After winning his Ph.D. there he taught history and political 
science for a while at Bryn Mawr and Wesleyan University 
and then at Princeton. 

He had akeady begun to write, in that severe yet beautifully 
clear and no-nonsense style so characteristic of his work. A 
volume called Congressional Government appeared in the book 
stalls the year before he took his doctorate in Baltimore. Divi- 
sion and Reunion, George Washington, A History of the Amer- 
ican People (in five volumes), and Constitutional Government 
in the United States followed from year to year and gave 
him a wide reputation as an authority on constitutional history, 
jurisprudence, and political science. By the time he had been 
at Princeton long enough to he considered for its presidency, 
Woodrow Wilson was also one of the best known orators in 
the college. Teddy Roosevelt, no colorless personality himself, 
had to admit that Wilson made a fine figure on the platform. 2 

Princeton was in those days thoroughly wedded to the Pres- 
byterians who had founded it and Wilson was descended from 
Presbyterian ministers on both sides. Popular with the students 
and the more progressive faculty, Woodrow Wilson became in 
1902 Princeton's first nonclerical head. He had not been the 
university's executive officer a semester when controversy en- 
gulfed him. 

A man of pronounced democratic feelings, keenly conscious 
of equality, with a Scof s cold logic and Robert Burns's un- 
compromising philosophy of brotherhood in his bloodstream, 
Wilson staggered old-line Princetonians by his democratic 
sentiments and acts. To the horror of traditionalist alumni and 
reactionary faculty, the new president set off salvo after salvo 

2. Theodore Roosevelt Papers. 

Ignores the Senate and Loses His Dream 183 

against an age of snobs and the very core of educational snob- 
bery, the wealthy Princeton clubs. Dean Andrew F. West 
quickly and forcefully opposed bis democratization of the 
college, particularly at its social and tutorial levels, and in the 
end Dean West won and Wilson lost. But by this time Wilson 
was nationally known. 

In 1910, soon after Wilson had resigned as head of Prince- 
ton, George B. M. Harvey, a New York publisher with Demo- 
cratic Party interests, came to him and persuaded him to run 
for Governor of New Jersey on the Democratic ticket. Sup- 
ported reluctantly by professional politicians, Wilson amaz- 
ingly won in a state then traditionally Republican. No sooner 
was he seated in his Trenton office than he began upsetting 
applecarts again, this time breaking quickly with party leaders. 

Governor Wilson's success in battling the entrenched New 
Jersey politicians won him increasing attention nationally. 
He obtained a direct primary election law, an employer's lia- 
bility law, a corrupt practices act, put new life in the state 
public utilities commission, and began enforcing social welfare 
laws already on the statute books but lying fallow. This sort of 
gubernatorial record was bound to push him into the 1912 
nomination picture, though Champ Clark was far in front as 
the leading Democratic candidate. 

Clark had been a lawyer, newspaper editor, and political 
leader in Missouri and eventually served his Congressional 
District as its Representative for twenty-six years. In 1907 he 
had become Democratic leader of the House and, the year 
Wilson became Governor of New Jersey, Champ Clark led a 
battle to reduce the dictatorial powers of Speaker Joseph G. 
Cannon. Clark became Speaker of the House the following 
year. With Uncle Joe Cannon's scalp dangling from his belt, 
few professional politicians dared oppose Clark for the Demo- 
cratic presidential nomination at Baltimore in 1912. 

But Woodrow Wilson was not a professional: this was part 
of his charm with the electorate. Champ Clark fell short of the 
required votes on the first ballot and the upstart Wilson began 
to gain support from an unusual quarter, William Jennings 
Bryan. Bryan himself had run and lost in 1896, 1900, and 1908, 


as Democratic standard-bearer (carefully ducking a race with 
Theodore Roosevelt in 1904). Bryan was still silver-tongued, 
still represented the voice of the poor and downtrodden, as 
professional logrollers like Champ Clark never had. During 
the convention Bryan also came under the influence of a most 
unusual personality, Colonel Edward Mandell House. 

Colonel House came from Houston, Texas, and was a Cornell 
graduate. He was no United States Army Colonel: his "Col- 
onel" was a Texas state title. Like many another Kentuckian 
and Texan he wore it proudly all his adult life. Important in 
Texas politics, Edward M. House's star rose with Woodrow 
Wilson's. His greatest coup was persuading Bryan to swing his 
powerful support to the New Jersey Governor in an effort to 
defeat Champ Clark and Tammany Hall. Wilson became the 
Democratic candidate, a nomination thought to be of little 
value early in 1912 because of President Taft's promising pros- 
pects for re-election and the Republican Party's traditional 
predominance. But, as so often happened during his time, 
Theodore Roosevelt's explosive personality intervened, Roose- 
velt soon repudiated his own ecstatic postelection declaration 
of 1904 that he would never run again for the Presidency. 

Slamming into his erstwhile friend, William Howard Taft 
and all that Taft had, in his opinion, failed to stand for 
Roosevelt bolted the regular Republicans and formed the Pro- 
gressive Party. Taft was nominated as regular Republican 
candidate. The unprecedented Republican split elected Wood- 
row Wilson, dark horse amateur, President of the United 
States. 3 Wilson received 435 electoral votes, Roosevelt 88, and 
President Taft only 8 (Utah and Vermont). The combined 
Republican-Progressive vote would have elected a Republican 

3. The Democratic Convention of 1912 had been one of the wildest 
ever. The delegates required forty-six ballots to nominate, and at one 
point Wilson sent a telegram withdrawing his candidacy. William Gibbs 
McAdoo, his strategist and son-in-law, tore up the telegram and per- 
suaded the Governor of New Jersey not to quit. Champ Clark, the 
favorite, finally lost his heavy support and William Jennings Bryan 
swung his own strength to Wilson, who then won the nomination. Had 
he had his own way, Wilson would have long since released his delegates. 

Ignores the Senate and Loses His Dream 185 

candidate, 7,604,518 popular votes to Wilson's 6,293,454, al- 
though many who might have voted for Wilson cast their bal- 
lots for the new Progressive Party and the ever-popular if 
turncoat Theodore Roosevelt. 

As he had done before while chief executive at Princeton 
and Trenton, Wilson as President wasted no time in shattering 
precedents in Washington. Reviving a custom dropped after 
John Adams in 1801, the new President appeared in person 
before Congress to deliver his State of the Union message. It 
was stylishly if severely written, as was all Wilson's writing, 
for he was a professional writer with millions of published 
words to Ms credit. He held the new Congress spellbound with 
his famed oratory. He called for a series of reforms which, 
during the campaign, he had named the "New Freedom," as 
his friend Franklin D. Roosevelt was to call his later reforms 
the "New Deal." 

Congress and the country responded wholeheartedly. Here 
was the first Democratic President since Cleveland and only 
the second since the Civil War. His program seemed to be a 
necessary antidote to generations of high-tariff, pro-bourbon 
legislation. Only T.R. had been an exception, and even the 
Rough Rider had been a high-tariff Republican working with 
a business-dominated Republican Congress. 

With such a start, the wonder is that Woodrow Wilson's 
new broom did not sweep all before it Surely the country was 
disappointed with President Taft and would have welcomed 
a prolonged change of direction. But, as his career made pain- 
fully obvious, Woodrow Wilson was a political freak, an 
amateur > an academician. He had never been to a county con- 
vention until nominated for Governor. He had never been in- 
side his own state capitol until the day he was sworn in at 
Trenton, He Bad never been inside the White House until he 
came there to live. 

What sort of man was this political sport? William Allen 
White, one of his warmest biographers, says: "Probably no 
other American ever learned so much politics in 22 months as 
Woodrow Wilson learned from the Irish of New Jersey be- 


tween September, 1910, and the spring of igia." 4 The fact is 
that, as Governor of New Jersey, Wilson had actually turned 
over most of his patronage to his two good Irish friends, Joe 
Tumulty and James Kerney. Tumulty was his private secretary 
and Kerney a newspaper editor who had long advocated his 
candidacy. The pair were slightly appalled, yet flattered and, 
of course, delighted with a responsibility which gave them re- 
markable power in Jersey politics at no cost to themselves. 
They wrote later that Wilson appeared to care little about the 
things that interested organization politicians. 

Indeed patronage continued to irk Wilson after he became 
President. He considered it a 'left-handed job" and practically 
farmed out the selection of his first Cabinet. The appointment 
of William Jennings Bryan as Secretary of State came against 
the instinctive judgment of Mrs. Wilson who distrusted Bryan's 
personality, windiness, and intellectual prowess, though she 
trusted his goodness. But Bryan had swung to Wilson in the 
1912 convention and overturned Champ Clark, and Wilson's 
Irish gratitude cottoned to him. Wilson told his wife he 
thought he could handle Bryan's wild swings and extravagant 

The President* s gross inexperience in the business of national 
politics was a terrible handicap. He did not even know the 
names of top Congressional leaders, much less their charac- 
ters, personalities, positions, or potentialities. His vast indif- 
ference to patronage. White believes, and the assumption he 
too often made of his university professor's superiority of mind 
over others continuously led him into difficulty. 

Having written voluminously on the theory of Federal gov- 
ernment, particularly the legislative branch, he became, in his 
own inimitable way, more of a Premier than a President. That 
is, he led Congress along the road to legislation rather than 
simply enforcing its acts or remaining aloof from the actual 
business of lawmaldng. White feels Wilson had legislative 
rather than administrative leadership, which probably stemmed 
from an amazing ego and an academic background in which, 

4. William Allen White, Woodrow Wilson (Boston, Houghton Mifflin 
Company, 1924), p. 244. 

Ignores the Senate and Loses His Dream 187 

as is natural in university circles, tie had rarely if ever been 
edited by a subordinate student body. Up to the time of the 
presidency of Princeton it is doubtful if Woodrow Wilson's 
judgment had ever been severely questioned by anyone. Cer- 
tainly he had come to be a sort of parochial monarch with 
absolute authority and little or no reason to consult anyone. 
Books (and students) didn't talk back. But Washington poli- 
ticians did. 

As Governor of New Jersey, Wilson had been a leader of 
the legislature and the people an exalted schoolmaster. When 
he came to the White House he was forced away from all the 
dear associations of town and gown, never to return. The man 
who had said at Princeton *T11 not be president of a country, 
club" wasn't likely to look upon high tariffs and child labor 
with anything but loathing, but he was also not likely to 
have the patience or the political skill to get corrective legis- 
lation through smoke-filled bargaining. It had to be done, for 
him, through personal leadership and intervention and appeals 
to the public. By instinct and personality alone he seems to 
have won his way in those first fecund, prewar years. The 
country was, of course, overripe for reforms. This helped his 

Wilson often defended Theodore Roosevelt's theory that the 
Presidency carried with it Congressional leadership. He once 
said: "Whatever else we may think or say of Theodore Roose- 
velt, we must admit that he was an aggressive leader. He led 
Congress he was not driven by Congress. We may not ap- 
prove his methods, but we must concede that he made Con- 
gress follow him." 5 

A man who had lived in the intellectually fertile, gentle 
atmosphere of Princeton for twenty-six years, as student, pro- 
fessor, university president, and Governor, could not easily 
be transplanted to the muck and noise of Pennsylvania Avenue. 
He had commuted from Princeton to Trenton when he was 
Governor of New Jersey. He could not commute to Washing- 
ton or he would surely have done so. 

Personal habit sustained him for a time in his transplanta- 

5. Ibid., p. 270. 


tkm. The Wilsons had been openly democratic at Princeton, 
stopping their horse and surrey along the college roads to 
pick up a neighbor, a washerwoman with her burden, a car- 
penter en route home, a messenger on his journey. Since this 
was impossible in the Presidency, Wilson's democracy took 
other outward forms after he moved to 1600 Pennsylvania 
Avenue. He refused to join the Chevy Chase Golf Club, play- 
ing when he could on a public course. 6 He went regularly to 
the Keith Vaudeville house and roared at its common rou- 

Wilson and his family often played the piano and sang. The 
magic of music changed cold White House marble to Princeton 
fireside for an hour or two each week, and nothing the fastid- 
ious new President did for recreation filled the exhausted cup 
of energy as quickly or perfectly. Wilson sang tenor and sang 
it very well indeed, if a bit on the Irish side. He was also a 
magnificent talker, but not to strangers. He liked nothing better 
than to speculate on great topics and unique ideas, academi- 
cally of course. 

As he began his Presidency, Woodrow Wilson was slightly 
above medium height and slightly below medium weight, a 
frail body with large, glowing eyes which sometimes seemed 
to be shifty, even untrustworthy. His hair was now graying, 
but it had once been blond, then brown. He walked with a 
firm step, the very epitome of self-confidence. 1 

But he was forever burdened with the body of a nonathlete, 
an engine inadequate to the needs of his agile mind, and, of 
our finest Presidents, Wilson probably required the most sleep. 
Nine hours in bed was an absolute minimum to make Mm feel 
well. He took no exercise besides golf and walking, and at 
fifty-six his stomach could scarcely keep down what little food 
Wilson ate. Indeed, he brought with him to the White House 
a stomach pump which, it is said, he used almost daily. 

6. Wilson never attempted proficiency at golf, but regarded it as a 
chance to get out in the open. He seldom kept score. Good weather or 
bad was all the same to him. If there was snow on the ground, the 
President would have his golf balls painted red. He played at all hours, 
sometimes at five in the morning, hut oftener kte in the afternoon. 

7. White, op. cU t> p. 275. 

Ignores the Senate and Loses His Dream 189 

Wilson was an incredibly uxorious man, needing a wife as 
few other Presidents have needed constant womanly compan- 
ionship. When Ellen Axson Wilson died on August 6, 1914, it 
very nearly broke the President Yet it is not surprising that 
he married again on December 18, 1915, and his quick second 
marriage to Mrs. Edith Boiling Gait, 8 a handsome widow, had 
nothing whatever to do with disloyalty to his dearest Ellen. He 
needed a woman around as he needed air to breathe, and Mrs. 
Gait was not only a looker ("She's a looker, and he's a goner," 
said a friend) but a perfectly matched personality for his. 
She exuded high spirits, devotion, humor, joy of living, beauty, 
gaiety. 9 

Wilson had written of Ellen Axson soon after her untimely 
death: "She was the most radiant creature I have ever known. 
Something like an aura of light always surrounded her." 10 Of 
Edith Boiling Gait, the young widow who took her place in his 
innermost heart, the President might well have written the 
same words at the end of the nine years they lived together. 
She and Ellen were essences in the Wilson story though, as 
William Allen White wrote it, "no man ever can restore a life's 
companionship which goes.'* 

This is the essential Wilson on whom years later the fate of 
the peace conference rested. History often shows him as a 
severely stubborn martinet addicted to a pince-nez, irrita- 
ble, nervous, loaded with jaw. Yet in truth he was a warm- 
hearted, musically Irish male with more than the average 
man's love of the touch, companionship, and warmth of the op- 
posite sex, seldom an ogre (until his final illness), and to Ms 
dose friends, especially women, a dear person. He loved women 
and women loved him in return. His true nature was in violent 

8. Wilson had a private wire installed between his room in the White 
House and her home, prior to their marriage, and spent hours each, day 
composing letters to her. She received flowers daily, and orchids appear 
to have had special significance. In those days, Washington flower shops 
were sometimes hard pressed to find orchids of the color and quantity 
Woodrow Wilson demanded. 

9. Ike Hoover wrote later that President Wilson sent so many love 
notes to Mrs. Gait that "the Library of Congress was put to a test to 
find quotations to express his feelings/* 

10. White, op. cit., p. 284. 


contrast to the severity his face and personality seemed to 
leave as a public impression. 

Soon after his inaugural in 1913 Wilson demanded that the 
tariff be reduced, and Congress responded with a drastic 
downward revision. Banking desperately needed a kind of 
flood control system and Wilson supplied it with the Federal 
Reserve Act and other reforms the same year. In 1915, the La 
Follette Seamen's Act regulating labor conditions aboard Amer- 
ica's merchant marine ended scores of abuses traditional to 
the mariner. The Federal Farm Loan Act of 1916 provided 
loans for co-operatives ("Socialism!" screamed the Republican 
press). The Adamson Act that same year limited railroad work- 
ers to an eight-hour day, though most of heavy industry still 
worked ten to twelve hours daily, often six days a week. The 
new President also created a body with additional monopoly- 
curbing powers, the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC 
immediately began to expose and investigate unfair practices 
of corporations, especially the claims for their products, a 
particularly pertinent inquiry in the field of patent medicine 
ads then flooding even the most respectable newspapers. An- 
other antimonopoly measure was the Clayton Anti-Trust Act 
which, with existing legislation, was responsible for more than 
a hundred new antitrust suits. 

The new President had, as Governor of New Jersey, insti- 
tuted the direct primary. He now carried this theory to the 
nation, asking that United States Senators be elected directly 
by the people instead of by state legislatures, as the Constitu- 
tion had always provided. The Seventeenth Amendment was 
soon passed by the Congress and quickly ratified by the States 
and, for the first time in American history, Senators were now 
elected the same way as Congressmen directly by the people. 
The Eighteenth Amendment, making Prohibition legal, and 
the Nineteenth Amendment, by which all U. S. women twenty- 
one or over received the vote, also were added to the Federal 
Constitution during Woodrow Wilson's Presidency. It was, 
indeed, a time of domestic reform and Wilson, the political 
accident, the reformer. 

The United States from 1912 to 1916 was not yet a world 

Ignores the Senate and Loses His Dream 191 

power, but an isolationist adolescent whose chief editorial 
writers constantly referred to Washington's farewell admoni- 
tion to beware of foreign entanglements. 11 The nation west 
of the Alleghenies shuddered at the blood bath which was 
Europe, and in 1916 the Democrats' campaign slogan for Wil- 
son's re-election was "He Kept Us Out of War." It proved 
highly successful, though the decision which rested on the 
returns from the last Western state to report was as narrow as 
it is possible for a presidential election to be. 

The vote of California seesawed during election night, with 
Charles Evans Hughes apparently elected by dawn, Eastern 
Standard Time. In fact, Hughes went to bed late thinking he 
was President. A New York Herald reporter, hearing that final 
but unofficial returns had squeaked Wilson in by fewer than 
4,000 votes, came to the Hughes house and demanded to see 
the Republican candidate for a statement. Hughes's son came 
to the door and said: "The President has retired and cannot be 
disturbed." 'Well," said the newspaperman, "when he wakes 
up, tell him he ain't President." 

Hiram Johnson, as steadfast and bitter an isolationist as ever 
breathed American air, was ironically responsible for Hughes's 
defeat in California and Woodrow Wilson's re-election. A fan- 
cied slight during the Republican campaign was the pretext, 
though it is more than likely that Hiram Johnson, himself a 
frustrated Republican presidential possibility, simply could not 
stand the thought that a liberal, international-minded New 
Yorker was likely to be President of the United States, and a 
war blazing in Europe to boot! So, the man who had "kept 
us out of war" went back to the White House for four more 
years: 277 to 254 in the electoral college and, more easily, 
9,129,606 to 8,538,221 in popular vote. 

But if Hiram Johnson and the Chicago Tribune held notions 
that they had saved the country from foreign entanglements 
they were to be quickly disillusioned. American public opinion 
had caught fire against Kaiser Wilhelm. On May 7, 1915, the 
Lusttarua had been torpedoed without warning off the Irish 
coast 1,200 persons, a hundred of them Americans, had died 

11. Files of the Chicago Tribune, passim, 1912-1916. 


frightful deaths. Immediately after re-election, Wilson tried to 
mediate the European war, but without the slightest success. 
When Germany renewed unrestricted submarine warfare, and 
all U. S. ships and passengers were now in jeopardy, Wilson's 
temper changed, reflecting a swelling tide of American fear 
and hatred of Germany. 

The German announcement of renewed unrestricted U-boat 
warfare came January 31, 1917, less than three months after 
Wilson's re-election and only five weeks before his second in- 
augural By April , 1917, the President was asking the Con- 
gress to declare war on Germany to "make the world safe for 
democracy,** and because the "right is more precious than the 
peace." His ideal was 'ultimate peace of the world" and "the 
liberation of its people." As before, Woodrow Wilson's gift 
for words and oratory united American opinion behind a 
principle, an ideal worth fighting for, and on April 6, 1917, 
the Congress declared that a state of war did indeed exist 
between the United States and the powers of darkness led by 
the cocky little Prussian with the stunning mustaches and the 
withered arm. 

William Jennings Bryan had resigned in 1915 as Secretary 
of State. Bryan had scrupulously favored neutrality and his 
clashes with Wilson had made him feel politically insecure 
and uncomfortable. Besides, Bryan had enormous limitations 
as Secretary of State in charge of the foreign affairs of a coun- 
try emerging as a world power. Robert Lansing, who replaced 
him, was more of an internationalist with better grounding in 
international law. Also, whereas Bryan had been a politician, 
Lansing, Bke Wilson, was almost academic in his approach 
to policy. 

The war helped consolidate in Woodrow Wilson a false 
sense of the rightness of his own intuition and judgment. As a 
war President, he asked for and received powers of decree un- 
tapped since the days of Abraham Lincoln. There lad been 
no major war since Lincoln's time; therefore, no other Presi- 
dent had needed dictatorial prerogative nor had Congress of- 
fered it. But war goods production, preservation of the sources 
of raw materials, the draft, the training of millions of amateur 

Ignores the Senate and Loses His Dream 193 

soldiers, the taking over of U. S. railroads, the enormous sale 
of Liberty bonds to finance America's first military venture 
overseas required ukase. Wilson asked for power and promptly 
got it. 

Emergency war measures in 1917 and 1918 revolutionized 
U, S. commerce, industry, and private life. The Federal gov- 
ernment took over the nation's railroad management and regi- 
mented labor, agriculture, and industry as they had never been 
regimented before. It was America's baptism in total war 
and in economic centralization. Both factors left lasting marks 
and established presidential precedents useful later to Frank- 
lin D. Roosevelt. And their effect on the man now in the White 
House was no less evident. They gave him, quite possibly, 
delusions that he and he alone could run the country its 
domestic difficulties and its foreign policy without overmuch 
consultation of anyone. It was an unfortunate intensification of 
Wilson's very nature and method. Had war not then involved 
the United States, Wilson's personal-decision system would 
surely have been exposed to greater and greater editing as his 
second term wore on. As it was, war and the dictatorial over- 
tones of war affected the President himself to a marked degree. 

Less and less did he seek the advice of his Cabinet in matters 
pertaining to the conduct of the war and its inevitable peace 
terms. As early as January 8, 1918, not quite a year since war 
had been declared by the United States, Woodrow Wilson 
suddenly proposed peace on the basis of fourteen points which 
had, for the most part, been of his own creation and phraseol- 
ogy. He was no longer simply a national figure; he now had 
world dimensions, and it is possible they went to his head. 

The President's special message to the Congress on January 
8, 1918, was thoroughly idealistic, matching his unique private 
idealism. Yet it had pragmatic overtones. It was intended to 
tell the Allied political leaders that the United States would 
have no part of a selfish peace, that the postwar treaty would 
have to measure up to new democratic liberalism which Amer- 
ica's war entry had introduced into world power politics. 

The first five of the historically famous "Fourteen Points" 
were by nature general and idealistically philosophical. They 


were intended by their author to create in wartorn Europe 
and untouched America a new moral climate which would 
unite public opinion behind a democratic peace treaty. They 
immediately gave Woodrow Wilson a position of pre-eminent 
moral leadership in whatever peace conference would be held 
at war's end. Unselfishness, Christian magnanimity toward the 
conquered, hope for ethnic groups long engulfed in overpower- 
ing and antagonistic majorities, freedom for colonial peoples 
were all at the core of Wilson's idealistic proposals. 12 

The first five points began with an insistence on "open 
covenants openly arrived at." Here was a thoroughgoing 
shocker to traditional European diplomacy, conducted since 
the Roman era behind closed doors and never once in all the 
intervening centuries "openly arrived at." The New World 
had for the first time become a conscience to its parents, and 
the common man in both Old World and New first gasped at 
its audacity, then applauded its fresh, optimistic viewpoint. 
Whether the final European peace treaty would in truth be 
an open covenant openly arrived at was, to say the least, de- 
batable in the context of traditional smoke-filled peace confer- 
ence procedure. Yet here was a wind fresh enough to rout stale 
old smells and bring to the diplomacy of the Western world 
the ozone of true democratic discussion: "open covenants 
openly arrived at," 

Point two was not as startling, yet again a fresh approach to 
ancient problems: it demanded complete freedom of the seas 
in peace and war. If this were accepted by the great powers, 
no longer could a nation declare unrestricted U-boat warfare 
on helpless, unwarned ships at sea, either belligerent or neu- 
tral. Freedom of the seas had been a traditional American cry 
since the War of 1812 when the British navy had mercilessly 
halted U. S. ships and kidnaped ("impressed" was then the 
phrase) American sailors for service on British vessels. Not 
only was the second point directed at the German U-boats' 
destruction of anything that floated without warning and 
without regard for life or national flag but it was also aimed 
at British sea snobbery, and the whole world knew it. 

12. Woodrow Wilson Papers, Princeton, New Jersey. 

Ignores the Senate and Loses His Dream 195 

Point three was again a startling proposal in Wilson's time: 
removal of economic barriers between nations for the freer 
flow of the world's goods and the economic betterment of 
mankind. Here was an unmistakable salvo at high tariffs and 
traditional border duties, which, during Wilson's Administra- 
tion, had begun to fall in the United States for the first time 
since the Civil War. The President was talking not only to 
his military adversaries; he was talking not only to America's 
allies; he was now talking to America herself. And he had done 
all this without the advice and consent of the proud Senate 
whose Constitutional power to ratify encompassed all foreign 

The next point involved reduction of world armaments to a 
level of simple domestic defensive needs. More startling dis- 
armament proposals had been made at other European peace 
conferences, but there was one difference: Woodrow Wilson 
meant it! He wanted an end to traditional European arma- 
ment, particularly armament for offensive war. If offensive 
armament did not exist, war itself might be made impossible. 
It was terribly logical in its simplicity and terribly effective at 
the moral level. 

But, of the first five points, the fifth was the most powerful 
and, to America's allies, the most impertinent. It asked that 
the claims of colonial peoples be given immediate attention 
with special regard for local populations. It also asked that 
rival colonial claims, even prior claims, be redressed where 
there were clear cases of territorial banditry. 

The effect of such an upstart proposal upon the British, the 
French, the Italians, the Germans, and all other traditional 
colonial powers can easily be imagined. The British Empire 
was then intact; it covered a quarter of the world's population 
and stretched from Australia and Singapore and Hong Kong 
and India in the East; Canada and Bermuda and the Barbados 
in the New World; to a dozen spots marked in red on the 
geography of Africa and the Middle East. Here was the chief 
executive of a former British colony daring to suggest that 
its dearest wartime ally painfully but honestly re-examine her 
vast colonial holdings not always acquired with the consent of 


the governed and quite often through undeniably naked ag- 

Though subtly pragmatic, the first five of the Fourteen 
Points reflected the very core of democratic philosophy on 
which the New World had been founded, unalterably an in- 
gredient of the American Constitution and way of life. But 
policymakers in Europe were not yet wholly taken with the 
democratic system. The British had a king, the Germans had a 
king, the Austro-Hungarians had a king, the Italians had a 
king; there was nepotic monarchy in Scandinavia, Eussia, 
Spain, Greece, the Netherlands, and Belgium, indeed almost 
everywhere on the European Continent except France. In such 
a context, Woodrow Wilson's five-point preamble had a shock- 
ing but magnificent popular effect. It gave him, and the fresh- 
man United States, undeniable moral leadership for the 
inevitable peace conference ... or would have, had Wilson 
consulted the Senate or the [Republican Party or even his own 
advisers- as Presidents should. 

But the fact is that Woodrow Wilson did not have adequate 
intercourse with either the leaders of the Senate and the House 
or the Republican and Democratic organizations prior to the 
dramatic issuance of his unprecedented Fourteen Points. Her- 
bert Hoover writes about it in a footnote to a page of The 
Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson:^ "Mr. Wilson had no ghost 
writer. He composed the first draft of his addresses on his own 
typewriter. He sometimes submitted them to his colleagues for 
their opinions but he seldom adopted changes in his funda- 
mental ideas.** 

How much did Colonel House have to do with the Fourteen 
Points? The Colonel had a tendency to assume latent credit for 
inspiring Wilson's major speeches, particularly the Fourteen 
Points address. But Mr. Hoover, who knew them both and 
knew them well, doesn't accept this claim. He points out that 
the ideas President Wilson proposed in the Fourteen Points 
can be found in Professor Wilson s teachings, whereas Colonel 
House nowhere in his own volumes shows such powers of ex- 

13. Herbert Hoover, The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson (New York, 
McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1958), footnote to p. 19. 

Ignores the Senate and Loses His Dream 197 

pression, historical background., or philosophical direction. 
Some of the Fourteen Points, Mr. Hoover reminds us, are 
echoed expressions of the American Revolution and the Con- 
stitution, even to their wording. He goes on: "Colonel House 
was a useful adviser and a most capable negotiator for the 
President. But Woodrow Wilson was no Charlie McCarthy." 14 

It might have been better for him had he listened to the 
considered thoughts of others. Politically, he might even have 
saved his League of Nations, though the world, America in 
particular, wasn't yet ready for such a progressive concept of 
world government. Maybe it still isn't. At any rate, friends like 
Secretary of State Lansing; Bernard Baruch, Chairman of the 
War Industries Board; Frank I. Cobb, editor of the New York 
World; Dr. Harry Garfield, Fuel Administrator; and Vance Mc- 
Cormick, Chairman of the War Trade Board, urged Wilson 
later not to go to Paris in person, but to send a delegation 
composed of members of the Congress, the Senate Foreign 
Relations Committee, the Cabinet, and any other personal rep- 
resentation he might select. Mr. Hoover himself urged the Pres- 
ident to think seriously about his decision to head the U. S. 
delegation personally, for Hoover was convinced that "Mr. 
Wilson's New World idealism would clash seriously with the 
Old World concepts of the Allied statesmen, and I feared that 
the President's dominant voice in creating world opinion would 
be stilled if he became involved in the inevitable restraints of 
personal negotiation." 13 

But the headstrong, willful personality traits that had gotten 
Woodrow Wilson quickly into deep trouble as president of 
Princeton and had made him, as he went it alone, the very 
prototype of the amateur politician, dictated that he go in 
person to any peace conference which might follow the not- 
yet-ended conflict in Europe. 16 Asking him not to go was like 

14. Ibid. 

15. Ibid., p. 61. 

16. Though Wilson is often said to have cared nothing for politics, 
the fact is that he got through Congress more reform legislation in his 
first term than had Been pushed through that sometimes too deliberative 
body in the previous century, Wilson accomplished this, however, chiefly 
through skillful use of public opinion, by going directly to the people. 


asking Babe Ruth to tell the manager to send someone else 
up to bat with the bases fuU. 

The first five and the last of the Fourteen Points were, in 
the long run, most important because they were chiefly philo- 
sophical and outrageously new to European politics. There is 
no doubt in the minds of his contemporaries that they did 
much to bring about the effective defeat of the enemy and its 
disarmament, for his speech of January 8, 1918, and several 
subsequent addresses, before the peace table had so much as 
been arranged, firmly established terms of peace with both the 
Allies and the enemy. 

All but one of the remaining nine points were specific sub- 
divisions of the first five principles. They involved territory 
held by Russia and future relations with Russia, in the throes 
of violent Bolshevik revolution; preservation of Belgian sov- 
ereignty; settlement of the question of Alsace-Lorraine; re- 
drawing of Italian boundaries with regard to ethnic minorities; 
a similar division of Austria-Hungary into its sub-nationalities; 
the redrawing of Balkan minorities into formally established 
national states; free navigation through the Dardanelles and 
drastic reduction of the Turkish empire; the establishment of 
an independent Poland with access to the sea; and, finally, pro- 
vision for "a general association of nations." 

It was, of course, point fourteen that hurt Wilson most 
deeply in his own country. In those days of slow communica- 
tion a man living in Chicago had more than a thousand miles 
of defendable American soil between him and the Atlantic 
Ocean, and then the vast ocean beyond to Europe. These 
thousands of miles of geographical buffer made for natural 
isolation and violent pro-Americanism. Led by the Chicago 
Tribune and other anti-British, anti-internationalist publica- 
tions, the parochial, pro-American philosophy of the West 
could not have been anything but what it was a predominant 
emotion of an enormous segment of the American electorate. 

When the fourteenth point bit the headlines the gage was 
cast and the Chicago Tribune was only one of many to take 
immediate issue. Since Wilson had consulted few elected rep- 
resentatives in the House or Senate as to the wording or philo- 

Ignores the Senate and Loses His Dream 199 

sopMcal merit of his startling proposals, friend and foe alike 
were unprepared. In such circumstances, his opposition was 
off to an unbeatable headstart. 

Reading his books and perusing his startling legislative 
record in Trenton and Washington, the objective reporter is 
forced to conclude that Woodrow Wilson heartily welcomed 
America's abandonment of her traditional isolation through her 
first European war, bloody and terrible though it must have 
been to the sensitive humanitarian in the White House. The 
Chinese have many words with two meanings: one of these is 
crisis which is also the word for opportunity. Woodrow Wilson 
saw in the crisis of America's political adolescence the oppor- 
tunity for America's political manhood. And to him political 
manhood had to include a League of Nations, with America its 
standard-bearer in a new and democratic world society. 

It is interesting to note that Wilson had long hesitated an- 
nouncing his Fourteen Points before January 8, 1918, fearing 
antagonisms overseas. He was eager to put out his manifesto 
before Lloyd George of Britain and Clemenceau of France 
could sabotage or forestall it. 17 The timing of the release of 
the Fourteen Points called for cables to both governments and 
to America's other allies. Then, suddenly, on January 5, as Wil- 
son was discussing the timing of his Fourteen Points speech 
with Colonel House, Lloyd George broke the story, so to speak, 
with an address on British war aims to a trade union delega- 
tion in London. Wilson wasn't notified. It made him furious. 
Arthur Walworth writes of it: 18 

When Wilson learned that Lloyd George had spoken with- 
out consulting him, both his morality and his pride were 
offended. Not only had the prime minister differed in prin- 
ciple by insisting that Germany pay reparations, but by pro- 
posing almost all of the President's Fourteen Points he 
seemed to have pirated the ideas that Wilson had set down 
with great pains. Wilson, the man of literary property, 
seemed to forget the biblical truth that his father had 

17. Arthur Walworth, Woodrow Wilson (New York, Longmans, 
Green and Company, 1958), p. 150. 

18. Ibid., p. 151. 


preached but had often overlooked that no servant of the 
Lord had light of his own, but merely bore witness to the 
""heavenly light," The ambition to seize the pulpit of peace 
for himself and to give leadership to his own people in 
serving the world still burned strongly in the prophet in the 
White House. He was no more inclined than he had been 
at the age of thirty to be any man's follower in a matter on 
which he felt that he had qualified himself to speak. 

Wilson had thought that it would in consequence be im- 
possible for him to make his Fourteen Points public, but Colo- 
nel House argued that Lloyd George had simply cleared the 
air and made it the more necessary to speak. 

This explains in part why Wilson appeared to be so pre- 
cipitous in his famous pronunciamento. It is possible that, had 
Lloyd George not spoken in London on January 5, Wilson 
might have consulted more Republican leaders, more Demo- 
cratic members of the Foreign Relations Committee, more 
political figures in both houses and parties before making his 
Fourteen Points, which might, in consequence, have been 
edited and altered. But when the Prime Minister threatened 
to steal his thunder, Woodrow Wilson the man could wait no 
longer. It wasn't in his nature to take back seats, particularly 
in the field of idealistic statesmanship. Yet, while the isolation- 
ist press either snubbed his utterances or decried them, their 
immediate practical effect in Europe and in America was 
slight, though their historical significance was immense. 

Theodore Roosevelt soon went to war against the Fourteen 
Points, for he realized at once that they constituted a campaign 
document of incalculable importance. Congress was up for 
re-election in November, 1918; the Republicans eventually 
won majorities in both houses. That Wilson's Fourteen Points 
Influenced the Congressional vote of isolationist mid-America 
there cannot from the record be the slightest doubt. 

Wilson said in October that a Republican victory would be 
interpreted on the other side of the water as a "repudiation of 
my leadership." 19 Theodore Roosevelt immediately sent tele- 

19. Ibid., p. 

Ignores the Senate and Loses His Dream 201 

grams to influential Senators urging that the Senate declare 
itself against adopting the Fourteen Points and even wrote to 
Senator Henry Cabot Lodge: "I am glad that Wilson has come 
out in the open. I fear Judas most when he can cloak his ac- 
tivities behind treacherous make-believe of nonpartisanship/* 20 
The old Republican warrior then made several public speeches 
in which he charged that Wilson was placing support for him- 
self above loyalty to the nation, that this was not "the Presi- 
dent's personal war," a topic on which T.R., of all then living 
statesmen, was the undoubted expert. The Fourteen Points 
even united Roosevelt and Taft, who made a joint statement 
on the evils of partisanship in the prosecution of any military 
campaign and the disloyalty of any President who would do 
such a wicked thing. 

Unknown to the Allied side, the German General Staff had 
on August 14, 1918, confessed to their Kaiser that the father- 
lands cause was forlorn, that the Austrians were on the verge 
of suing for a separate peace, that even the departure of Russia 
from the Allied ranks (because of the Bolshevik revolution) 
could not long forestall the end. Morale grew so low in the 
German army that by September General von Hindenburg 
voiced the opinion that the need for peace negotiation was 

Colonel House was dispatched by Wilson to Europe as soon 
as these facts had become obvious even to the Allies, and the 
good Colonel went about the Continent making personal 
friendships, soothing suspicions, allaying fears, sensing cur- 
rents of ambition, greed, jealousy, and aggrandizement that 
flowed among Allied statesmen. 

In Europe it immediately became obvious to Colonel House 
that the Fourteen Points, when laid before the Allied premiers 
for discussion, could not be pulled through by diplomatic 
trading alone. 21 Lloyd George had already stated serious reser- 
vations to two of the fourteen; Clemenceau was about to dis- 
close France's objections to others. So Colonel House whose 

20. Ibid., p. 203. 

21. Ibid., p. 181. 


shrewd Texas statesmanship usually inhibited such bluntness 
did what he seldom did in public life. He stated baldly to his 
friend Clemenceau that, if the Allied leaders in Europe ob- 
jected wholeheartedly to Wilson's principles, he would im- 
mediately advise the President to lay all the facts before the 
American Congress in a hearing open to the press and ask 
whether the American people should continue to fight for old 
European peace terms or mate a separate peace with the 
Kaiser. 22 

The effect on Wilson's allied counterparts was electric and 
delighted Wilson who cabled House: **I am proud of the way 
you are handling things" The effect on Germany was equally 
potent, for it soon became public knowledge that Wilsons 
liberal approach to peace now had brought the offensive to 
the Western side. Although the Allies would eventually have 
been able to liquidate or erode the German military force, still 
incredibly formidable after four years of butchery, the Presi- 
dent's Fourteen Points quickly vitiated much of the German 
will to persevere. 23 

On October 6, 1918, with the reluctant consent of the Junkers 
generals, a new German chancellery dispatched a note to the 
President accepting the Fourteen Points as a basis for peace 
negotiations and privately suggesting an armistice. In the ex- 
change that followed, the President struck a posture charitable 
enough to lead the Germans on, yet force them to total sur- 
render. 24 With each new response in the exchange, Woodrow 
Wilson's world stature rose; the old cliche of European power 
politics shuddered from the idealistic dreamer's New World 
assault. As the British had gagged at freedom of the seas and 
the French at the absence of reparations payments, the entire 
European diplomatic community was taken aback at the 
audacity of an upstart American practically negotiating single- 
handed an armistice with the detestable Hun. Yet this approxi- 
mated the truth; and when, on November 11, the Armistice 

22. Ibid., p. 195. 

23. John Morton Blum, Woodrow Wilson and the Politics of 
Morality ( Boston, Little Brawn and Company, 1956), p. 149. 

24' ibid. 

Ignores the Senate and Loses His Dream 203 

was announced by the Western powers, they pledged to make 
a peace based on those selfsame Fourteen Points, with the res- 
ervations noted. 

During the war, the coalition which was the Democratic 
Party (it has sometimes been a preposterous and precarious 
coalition in U. S. history) had begun to crumble and eventually 
to fall apart completely. The liberal dynamite of 1912 was 
gone, the progressivism of 1916 had all but vanished, the mid- 
dle ckss groaned under high war taxes, the Midwestern farmer 
thought he was getting too little for his wheat, the cities missed 
their beer and detested the draft, the intellectual fussed about 
Wilson's disappointing performance in civil liberties, the Re- 
publicans under Will Hays were beginning to close ranks, and 
wheatless, meatless, sugarless days were becoming downright 
distasteful in a spoiled young nation that had never had to 
worry for long about overflowing food and comfort since the 
Civil War, which few living could remember. Families without 
men around were yet another irritating thorn. 

But worst of all for the Democratic Party was the person- 
ality habit pattern of the President. A political egotist, a 
'loner/' an idealist, habitually willful, more than ever impatient 
with local politics and the insipidly stupid but necessary proto- 
col, Wilson had publicly stated with gross inaccuracy and 
condescension that politics was adjourned. The Republican 
Congressional victory of November, 1918, and its subsequent 
assault on Wilson's foreign policy changed the President's 
mind. He had refused to campaign, to endorse Democratic 
candidates from coast to coast with his prestige and personality 
at a time when he thought other items more important. He 
could not now have made a worse mistake. He was becoming 
partisan too late. 

The Republicans immediately began to assault his entire 
foreign policy on grounds that he alone would be responsible 
for a "peace without victory." This sentiment, echoed of course 
in London, Paris, and Rome, which were understandably 
thirsty for revenge and total triumph, had the effect at home 
of questioning Wilson's entire political leadership, domestic as 


well as foreign. Teddy Roosevelt demanded that peace be dic- 
tated to the defeated through Tbammering guns . . . not click- 
ing typewriters." Democrats in Congress soon picked up the 
refrain; next the Cabinet; then the Democratic National Com- 
mittee; finally the press of the nation joined in the "hate Ger- 
many" obsession. 

The President tried his best to make a concession to under- 
standable war's-end emotions by increasing the severity of his 
notes to Berlin, yet he never asked for the unconditional, pros- 
trate surrender with staggering reparations and total dismem- 
berment of Germany that frightened Democrats demanded. 
To his credit he did not give in or temporize. His splendid 
purpose, his exquisite idealism, his hope for a world made safe 
for democracy which must now surely germinate in the king- 
doms of Europe never for an instant wavered at a time when 
a lesser man might well have caved in. He could write: "God 
has in His good pleasure given us peace. It has not come as 
a mere cessation of arms, a mere relief from the strain and 
tragedy of war. It has come as a great triumph for right/' He 
had believed from the day of Ms first faith in man's ability to 
govern himself that Christian democracy was a viable principle 
by which to live, not a welcome mat to be taken in with the 
first few drops of rain. He had believed in it in the beginning; 
he believed it still without compromise. 

John Morton Blum says a penetrating and remarkable thing 
about the Wilson mind of 19181919 : 2& 

Fixed on its notable end, the one-track mind sensed less 
and less its growing isolation. Election Day in 1918 left no 
impression. Increasingly thereafter conscience made a cow- 
ard of resilience. The pace, already faltering, was broken. 
The President went one way; Ms Congress, his constituency, 
indeed his world, another, until he stood at last alone. 

With the Armistice signed, Wilson faced twin tasks more 
difficult than any he had ever faced before, and with less 
physical strength and political backing to sustain him. 2S First 

25. Blum, op. cit. y p. 158. 

26. Col. Edmund W. Starling wrote, with the late Thomas Sugrue, a 
book about life in the White House, where Starling was on the security 

Ignores the Senate and Loses His Dream 205 

lie must cope with America's wartime allies, nations deci- 
mated, tortured, hurt by and angry at an aggressive, brutal 
enemy of four bloody years of interminable trench warfare. 
Whatever he might be able to do with the crafty old statesmen 
of ancient and now victorious states he would then have to get 
somehow ratified by a two-thirds vote of the United States 
Senate, now in Republican hands. 

When he said that the war had been won solely by the 
inspiration of democratic ideas he was talking errant nonsense, 
so far as Britain and France were concerned. Nor would the 
rest of the Western world agree with him that there was "a 
great wind of moral force moving through the world, and every 
man who opposes . . . that wind will go down in disgrace." 
This was patronizing gibberish to men like Lloyd George, 
Clemenceau, Orlando, and the traditional governments they 

A man capable of saying wonderfully naive things on the 
eve of a world peace conference would also be capable of 
amazing pragmatic error; and Wilson was capable of both. 
He chose neither a member of the United States Senate, with- 
out whose consent no treaty could be ratified, nor any active 
member of the opposition party to accompany him to Paris. 
He would brook no slightest dissent, mild as it might be, from 
his master plan. He could not forgive Theodore Roosevelt nor 
the Republicans for attacking his foreign policy during the 
recent campaign. He began to believe that the peace confer- 
ence to which he was moving in person was peculiarly his own 
and had little or no relationship with anything or anyone else. 
It is perhaps not too much to say that his public statements 
of 1918-1919 suggest an aberration that he had invented de- 
mocracy and wanted no one else's advice on or claim to its 

staff, called Starling of the White House (New York, Simon and 
Schuster, Inc., 1946), in which Starling says that Wilson's temper was 
becoming increasingly short at this time. Once, on a golf course, a 
boy nearLy cupped Ms hands to his mouth and yelled like an Indian 
just as Wilson was addressing his ball. Disgusted, the President said: 
"That boy must be training to be a Senator. He's always making a noise 
with his mouth and not saying anything." 


Who might have gone to Paris with Woodrow Wilson? The 
newly constituted Republican Senate had chosen Senator 
Henry Cabot Lodge as its Foreign Relations Committee chair- 
man but Lodge was, of all people, least eligible in Wilson's 
mind to accompany him anywhere. It is said that he left the 
Senator cooling his heels for hours in a White House waiting 
room and that Lodge eventually got up and left without seeing 
the President at a time when Wilson needed every ounce of 
support he could muster for his pet project. Lodge had lately 
been an acidulous critic of Wilson's internationalism, a close 
friend of T.R. 3 a thoroughgoing economic conservative, and to 
Wilson, an intolerant partisan. Yet Senator Lodge might have 
been friendly to ratification of peace terms he had helped to 
frame; as chairman of the powerful Foreign Relations Com- 
mittee he was precisely the last man in Washington a Chief 
Executive should have snubbed in the circumstances. 

But if Lodge had been impossible for Wilson to swallow, 
there were others who might have helped modify the adamant 
position the Republican-controlled Senate eventually took on 
the peace treaty. There was a possibility in the brilliant Elihu 
Root, once Secretary of State under T.R. and a patriot of less 
partisanship than most, a former Senator from New York with 
plenty of friends in the Senate chamber, a famous international 
lawyer and a specialist on world arbitration. Yet Wilson 
spurned him, apparently dismissing him in such patronizing 
terms that the President's faint praise eventually found its way 
to Root himself and set up yet another needless roadblock to 

There was also William Jennings Bryan, Wilson's first Sec- 
retary of State, whose training in international law was, to say 
the least, questionable but who still possessed a certain politi- 
cal magic on The Hill. Or William Howard Taft, ex-President 
and Supreme Court Justice, a man of deep integrity, a fine legal 
mind, and an outspoken advocate of an active international 
community of nations to insure the peace. But Taft was a 
Republican and had said, Wilson thought, some nasty things 
during the 1918 campaign. Wilson simply wouldn't have Taft 
on his team. 

Ignores the Senate and Loses His Dream 207 

There were a few others, among them astute and friendly 
Senators, not in any way inimical to the tremendous new idea 
of a world co-operation and undoubtedly eager to cash in on 
whatever headlines Wilson would make abroad. But the Pres- 
ident couldn't see them and, in point of fact, rarely spoke about 
such matters with anyone now except Colonel House and Sec- 
retary of State Lansing. 

Woodrow Wilson quickly settled upon associate delegates 
from whom he could expect little more than sycophancy, or at 
least this was the way his Paris delegation appeared to the 
Republicans. Colonel House and Secretary Lansing would, of 
course, be there. House was indispensable. Lansing could not 
be overlooked because he was technically the President's ad- 
viser on foreign policy and his advice could, of course, be 
disregarded since he owed his tenure to the man he was ad- 
vising. Henry White would go along, a quiet, gentlemanly 
career diplomat whom Wilson trusted and who was, at least 
nominally, a Republican, though he had taken little or no part 
in domestic politics. General Tasker H. Bliss, a military expert 
of untapped but formidable talent, joined the party. And, sec- 
retaries and aides aside, this made up Wilson's delegation! 

John Blum points out that the President's disdain of public 
opinion equaled his aloofness from The Hill and pragmatic 
politics. 27 

Only the newspapers could continuously interpret his ne- 
gotiations in Europe to the American people; he had, as he 
knew, no facility in dealing with the press; but for his official 
press representative in Paris he chose George Creel, whose 
wartime work had seemed to many journalists a form of 
censorship. Wilson had to agree, furthermore, to holding tie 
important meetings of the conference in secret. This dis- 
turbed the journalists, who had mistakenly assumed that 
open diplomacy meant public negotiation. Unwilling to dis- 
cuss his unsuccessful opposition to the secrecy imposed, 
Wilson further alienated the press by making consistently 
uninformative his official news releases. He simply saw no 
need to explain or justify himself. 

27. Blum, op. cit., p. 161. 


The Treaty of Versailles was, then, molded from the Amer- 
ican point of view almost single-handed by a naive professor 
of political science who had neglected to take Congressional 
representatives with him. It was created in an atmosphere o 
personality politics from the ego of one American mind. 

The spirit of his Fourteen Points was to be occasionally 
discernible in the Treaty of Versailles. The Treaty would 
eventually define as nearly as it could ethnological groupings 
on the map of Europe. With minor reservations, Wilson's hope 
for the self-determination and independence of small, indige- 
nous nations carved from kingdoms was fulfilled. As he had 
forecast, the Covenant of the League of Nations would be an 
indispensable part of the Treaty and, to him, "the hope of the 

The Treaty of Versailles was one of five peace treaties end- 
ing World War I, but it was the most important because it 
dealt largely with Germany whereas the other four disposed 
of Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Germany was 
never consulted openly during the making of the Treaty of 
Versailles and, when it had been written, the Germans were 
told simply to sign it or else. 

Although Wilson's Fourteen Points were essentially sacri- 
ficed to Old World hates and precedent, to power politics far 
beyond the strength of the President to withstand, his main 
objective a League of Nations became part and parcel of 
the Treaty. Reparations payments by Germany, the most 
ruinous demands of the Treaty, were to be suspended in 1931 
largely at the insistence of President Hoover. And many hun- 
dreds of volumes have been written to say that the Treaty was 
either too harsh, too soft, or relatively just in its dealings with 
the defeated and the long downtrodden. No one can ever come 
near the truth of it 

The League of Nations, then, became the focal point for 
hardening Republican opposition to Wilson and all his works. 
It was on this ground, with growing isolationist support, that 
the great post-Treaty battle was fought out. 

On a quick trip back to the States early in 1919 to attend 
to domestic affairs, the President was confronted with a dev- 

Ignores the Senate and Loses His Dream 209 

astating document, the handiwork chiefly of Henry Cabot 
Lodge. Senator Lodge revealed the day before Wilson was to 
return to Paris a resolution signed by thirty-seven Republican 
Senators, four more than the thirty-three votes needed to sabo- 
tage ratification of any foreign treaty. 

The resolution or memorandum or "round robin,** as it was 
variously called, declared that the Covenant as it stood was 
unacceptable to the Republican Senators and that major reser- 
vations would have to be adopted before these thirty-seven 
Senators could see their way clear to ratifying any treaty con- 
taining the Wilsonian brand of League. It was too late now to 
compromise, though Wilson desperately tried. His was an un- 
popular cause in isolationist America; he had played his cards 
very badly indeed. 

In the two months of his first stay in Europe, Woodrow Wil- 
son had been acclaimed its savior. His picture had hung every- 
where with American bunting draped about it: "Vive Wilson V 
had welcomed him in every language in every city of Western 
Europe. He had had a Messiah's welcome when he first came. 
Now he was returning to cruel reality. 

The torment began when he was in Washington. First there 
was Senator Lodge's defiant "round robin,** which was still to 
be met. Then there were reports from Paris that his staff had 
conspired in his absence to separate the Covenant from the 
Treaty, the League of Nations from peace with Germany. He 
had insisted they were inseparable and could not be negotiated 
apart. In his absence, Clemenceau and Lloyd George (or as 
Colonel House called him, "George") had reverted to type. 
Orlando of Italy was making imperialistic demands. The 
French were insisting on an independent republic of the Rhine- 
land., French rights in Syria, and other geographical conces- 
sions. The British wanted most of the other Arab states, and 
the Italians were anticipating possessions promised them in 
the secret Pact of London. 

This Pact of London ( often mistakenly called the Treaty of 
London) was one more diabolical roadblock against Wilson's 
idealism. A maze of secret arrangements and treaties had been 
entered into by the Allied forces prior to America's entry into 


the war. If these treaties were to be respected, Wilson's Four- 
teen Points would be all but nullified. One of these secret 
treaties was the Pact of London, signed privately in 1915 by 
Britain, France, and Italy, assuring Italy that, if she entered the 
war on the Allied side, the Trentino, the Brenner Pass, Istria, 
Trieste, parts of Dalmatia, some Adriatic islands, and a share 
of Anatolia would be hers. These territories were defined and 
delimited in the Pact of London with what Herbert Hoover 
calls "the precision of a New England farm." 28 

The secret treaties., particularly the Pact of London, now 
rose to haunt Wilson, for Italy had, in his absence, insisted 
privately that the secret contract of 1915 be implemented and 
if France and Britain lived up to its terms, as they were legally 
bound to do, self-determination of the Adriatic peoples the 
Yugoslavs was a dead issue. America had not, of course, 
been a signatory to any of the secret treaties which had been 
agreed to long before U. S. entry. It is even possible that the 
precise contents of the Pact of London were unknown to Wil- 
son, though U. S. intelligence services were undoubtedly aware 
of it. Added to this dilemma was fresh insistence, in Wilson's 
absence, on the heaviest of reparations from the Germans, 
something the Fourteen Points had promised would not 

As the President's ship, the George Washington, reached the 
French coast, Colonel House came aboard and talked until 
midnight. Mrs. Wilson reports the effect on her already ap- 
prehensive husband: 29 

I heard my husband's door open and the Colonel take his 
leave. I opened the door connecting our rooms. Woodrow 
was standing. The change in his appearance shocked me. He 
seemed to have aged ten years, and his jaw was set in that 
way it had when he was making super-human effort to con- 
trol himself. 

I asked, "What's the matter? What has happened?" He 
said: "House has given away everything I had won before 
we left Paris. He has compromised on every side, and so I 

28. Hoover, op. tit. t p. 78. 

29. Ibid., p, 196. 

Ignores the Senate and Loses His Dream 211 

have to start all over again and this time it will be harder . . . 

he has yielded until there is nothing left." 

From the hour o his return to Europe, Wilson's health and 
hope began to go downhill. Negotiations went from bad to 
worse, from worse to hopeless, then climbed tantalizingly up 
the glass hiU again, only to slide back. Old European hatreds 
rose like cork to the surface, refusing to stay down. 

On April 3, after a fortnight of atmospheric malignancy, the 
President came down with the flu. It soon infected his prostate 
and bladder, although on the word of his physician, Admiral 
Grayson, it was in no way connected with his paralytic stroke 
five months later. Under the terrible strain of anxiety and un- 
ending frustration, fatigue beyond human limits, the man who 
had brought a stomach pump to the White House, whose frail 
body had never been able to function properly on less than 
nine hours' rest per night, broke in health, never fully to re- 

Early in April the ill President called for the George Wash- 
ington to take him home again. When this became public 
knowledge, the high hopes he had held for a democratic 
Europe melted like sand castles in the surf. Though his health 
improved sufficiently to cancel the April sailing, tike President 
was never able to regain the tactical stature he had had on his 
triumphant first arrival. 

A further woe now struck his idealistic statesmanship. The 
treaty was harsh and scarcely the democratic instrument he 
had forecast. But to make things worse, Clemenceau and 
Lloyd George were now insisting that the blockade of Ger- 
many be renewed until the Germans were forced by starvation 
and economic despair to sign the peace treaty as it stood. This 
bloodthirsty coercion, understandable in men whose sons and 
gold had perished by the millions against the tyranny of a 
repeating aggressor, Wilson could not stomach. Yet, in the 
end, he was forced to sign his name to a compromise com- 
munique of the Supreme Council of Allied Powers stating that 
resumption of the blockade would not be made "without a 
decision from the Council." It must have been the most galling 
of his many compromises. 


The German delegation was bluntly told that, for all practi- 
cal purposes, it must sign or suffer the consequences. The 
Germans replied, after careful perusal, that they could not in 
all conscience sign something as degrading as the terms 
handed them; that they had appealed for an armistice on the 
President's false promises of fair, democratic treatment. Rather 
than become traitors to the fatherland, the German delegation 
resigned en masse on June 20. 

But a new German delegation appeared on June 28 and this 
new set of ministers came to the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles 
and signed away tens of billions of dollars in reparations pay- 
ments, all of Germany's overseas possessions and mandates, as 
well as what was left of her strength and honor. The Hun had 
had it coming; now the Hun was getting it, old-style. The only 
fragment of the mirror of democracy lay in the formation of 
the President's dream: a League of Nations. This he must now 
return to his native land to defend and save from domestic 

Wilson left France forever on June 28, 1919, arriving in New 
York on July 8. When he landed he began at once to plan a 
nation-wide crusade to ratify a treaty over which the Senate 
was already in full and acrimonious debate. 

While formal submission of the Treaty to the Senate took 
place July 10, Wilson's major effort began in September when 
he undertook his cross-country battle for ratification. He would 
take it to the people, for he had always believed in the com- 
mon sense of the common people; they would now sustain him 
if their elected representatives would not. Stubborn to the end, 
the Scotch-Irish blood had one more battle left; it would be the 
most stirring, the most courageous, and the most pathetic battle 
of his fading life, which it was to cost him. 

The League of Nations was continuously and violently at- 
tacked on the floor of the Senate throughout the spring, sum- 
mer, and early fall of 1919. Lodge was a ringleader; as his team 
seemed more and more likely to win the final vote he slowly 
gained adherents, even among Democrats. They could feel the 
country's progressive antagonism to Wilson, to internationalism 
and all its works; it was a reaction against f ar-from-dead power 

Ignores the Senate and Loses His Dream 213 

politics and secret diplomacy of Europe, which had won the 
decisive rounds at Paris. Isolationism, traditional in America, 
was reasserting itself: Wilson was playing for his life's highest 
stakes with a stacked deck. 

On September 25, 1919, the President was making his cru- 
sade back from the Pacific Coast when suddenly he collapsed 
at Pueblo, Colorado. The courageous battle was over. Unlike 
the candor attached to President Eisenhower's later heart at- 
tack, ileitis, and stroke, President Wilson's doctor and press 
secretary did not take the public into their confidence. Mys- 
tery, confusion, misunderstanding, and even misrepresentation 
marked the paralytic stroke with which the slight old man was 
now seized. 

Colonel House wrote in his diary on October 21, 1919* th at 
the President's condition was such that no one was seeing him 
except his physician and Mrs. Wilson. 30 This date was almost 
a month alter the stroke; yet no mention of the true nature 
of the illness had yet been made to a hushed but inquisitive 
press and an even more curious Senate. The President's entire 
left side was now all but useless. 

Three months after the seizure, House was to write privately 
again that the President "is much sicker than the public is led 
to believe." A Thanksgiving proclamation went into the sick 
room via Mrs. Wilson and came back with a signature almost 
illegible. David Lawrence states that the sick man extracted 
a promise from those closest to him that his condition would 
never be made public so long as he was President of the United 
States. 31 In the context this was an impossible assignment. 

Incredibly, the true severity of his illness did not become 
public knowledge until long afterward and not official until 
Wilson was no longer in the White House. Woodrow Wilson 

30. Col. Starling later wrote: "When lie was to go for a ride, some 
of us [Secret Service] organized a group to stand at the gate as he 
returned, and we told them to cheer as he passed through. The first 
time it happened, when we went to lift him from the car after driving 
around to the baclc, there were tears in his eyes. *Yon see/ he said to 
Mrs. Wilson, 'they still love mef " 

31. David Lawrence, The True Story of Woodrow Wilson (Garden 
City, Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1924), p. 290. 


never recovered from the stroke. He lingered in the torment 
of frustration, physical and mental, until February 3, 1924. 

The Senate voted on the Treaty of Versailles on November 
19, 1919; the motion for unconditional ratification failed by 
seven votes of the necessary two-thirds. 32 Another vote on 
March 19, 1920, changed little, even with Senatorial reserva- 
tions abhorrent to the stricken President. The Senate never 
ratified the Treaty, the only nation of any consequence to 

On January 10, 1920, the League of Nations opened for busi- 
ness in Geneva without the United States, and on April 18, 
1946, it disbanded, replaced by a stronger and more practical 
policing organization, the United Nations. It is doubtful if the 
UN as it is today could have existed without the idealistic 
dream and its partial fulfillment in the League. Yet the one 
major power to repudiate that dream was Woodrow Wilson's 
own country. 

That the President himself was deeply responsible cannot 
be denied. For he had overlooked a fundamental tenet of the 
Presidency as true as any other that a President does not 
work in an executive vacuum but in a complicated relationship 
between the people on the one hand and the legislature on the 
other; that politics, an irrevocable part and parcel of the presi- 
dential office, is a fact painfully and perennially true, whether 
the man in the White House likes it or not. 

32. Looking back to the time, tike wonder is that ratification came as 
close as seven votes, a tribute to Wilson's personal standing. 

Franklin Roosevelt's 

MABCH 4, 1933, was a Saturday, misty and raw with a 
seasonal wind and sullen sky. But sky and wind were 
nowhere as forbidding as the state of the nation. Panic gripped 
the financial community. No one's money seemed safe. So 
many millions were out of work that one family in two was 
directly affected. Trade was as close to a complete standstill 
as trade can get, the United States as near economic collapse 
as a growing young country can become and not find itself in 
physical revolution. This was indeed a cold and forbidding 
inauguration of a President of the United States. 

With the economic and social motors groaning toward a 
breakdown, there were few Americans indeed who could fore- 
see what it would mean to swear in the good-looking man who 
had to wear steel braces to stand for his inaugural. What the 
country could not know was that this man who now took the 
sacred oath was to accomplish his own kind of bloodless revo- 
lution, far more effective and drastic than anything America 
had seen in her short term of almost uninterrupted capitalistic- 
industrial expansion. What the terrified capitalist-financiers 
pleading with the new President could not possibly imagine 
was how this one individual would irrevocably and drastically 
change their world, without ignoring a single democratic rule 
or precept during the unprecedented legislative process. What 
no one, not even Franklin Dekno Roosevelt himself, knew at 
this historic moment was that his first hundred days in the 
White House would be the most amazing, prolific, fecund, 


Amazing Hundred Days 

and revolutionary period of concentrated social and economic 
reform in the history of his people. After his tenure as Chief 
Executive, his country would never be the same again. 

March 4, 1933, was the last of the traditional March inaugu- 
rals. January 20 would soon replace the later date, as the lame 
duck Congress would soon be replaced as an antique. The new 
President was saying to the traditional ceremony: "The only 
thing we have to fear is fear itself r This was undeniable. Like 
the old children's card game in which there used to be two 
cards in the same set, one marked "Confidence Impaired" and 
the other "Confidence Restored," the tall, handsome orator was 
now saying that prosperity or depression were largely matters 
of confidence. Wealth was in one way only the rapidity of 
circulation; the number of times money changed hands in a 
calendar month showed how freely it was being spent and 
whether there was or wasn't confidence in the future. Con- 
fidence had been impaired; the new President knew that 
somehow confidence must now be restored to lubricate the 
machinery and start the wheels turning again. 

If impaired confidence could be changed to restored con- 
fidence, the lubrication of hope might set people to buying 
again, taking normal business risks, stop their hoarding of gold. 
The business cycle might begin to improve after three and a 
half ghastly Depression years. 

"This nation asks for action, and action now . . ." rang the 
voice. A cheer went up from those present and a small warmth 



stirred in the nation shocked to economic immobility, frozen 
by impaired confidence and fear. 

Throughout the United States, millions of Americans were 
listening to an inauguration over a crazy gadget called the 
radio, in its adolescence but soon of enormous political use 
to the very voice they were now hearing. His fireside chats 
would usher in a whole new means of admirable political com- 
munion, -The golden baritone, the impeccable delivery, the in- 
gratiating command of spoken language (though his speeches 
would not read as well as they sounded) were already begin- 
ning to provide a lubrication of hope in a stricken, frozen, 
almost completely paralyzed American economy as near vio- 
lent revolution as capitalistic countries can get before someone 
declares martial law/ Indeed, martial law had already been 
declared among normally prudent Midwestern farmers who 
would rather dump their milk than sell it for a few pennies 
a gallon. 

Half a million of those who listened by radio to the new 
President or read in the papers of his promise of action now, 
after months and months of rank inaction, sat down in the next 
few hours and wrote him personal letters addressed to the 
White House. Eleanor Roosevelt found the inaugural "very 
very solemn and a little terrifying" but those 500,000 who 
wrote the new President letters were for the most part less 
realistic since they knew less about the man they had elected 
who was, as most Presidents are in their maiden months, a 
new leader not yet unfrocked by time and record. 

"In this dedication of a nation we humbly ask the blessing 
of God," said the golden voice over the radio. "May He pro- 
tect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days 
to come." 

While the trumpets* flourish was still fresh in memory and 
the huge inaugural parade was being shown in the nation^ 
newsreels, these letters from American humanity kept pouring 
in to the White House by trucksful: 

Yours is the first opportunity to carve a name in the halls 
of immortals beside Jesus. 

Amazing Hundred Days 219 

Peogle_are looking to you almost as they look to God. 

It seemed to give the people, as well as myself, a new hold 
upon life. 

Your human feeling for all of us in your address is just 

God bless you and yours. We are now on the road again. 
At last we have a leader who knows what it is to lead. 
It was the finest thing this side of heaven. 

Eleanor Roosevelt shuddered that her husband got his big- 
gest hand when he said he might have to assume wartime 
powers to solve the nation's fantastic economic problems. She 
knew her husband's strengths and weaknesses, his vast lack 
of pragmatic economic knowledge (he had failed in several 
busines enterprises), and her Theodore Roosevelt blood gave 
her a conservative reverence for the democratic process not 
even desperate economic panic could entirely erase. 

Who was the man who now stood on the inaugural platform? 
What sort of person, what kind of background, what roots of 
precedent were there to bend the twig? Franklin Delano 
Roosevelt was a relative of T.R. (as was his wife), a man of 
Dutch ancestry, a native of Hyde Park, New York, where his 
family had been landed gentry ever since Dutchess County 
had been so properly named. An only child, Franklin had been 
born when his father was fifty-four years of age, twenty-six 
years older than his mother; young Franklin was, consequently, 
so thoroughly spoiled that in Groton he was to many of his 
young associates a downright prig. Harvard followed, then 
kw school, during which period he had married the scarcely 
beautiful but bright Eleanor Roosevelt, his cousin. 

The Roosevelts had been unhesitatingly drawn to politics. 
From the first they lived in an atmosphere of the idea, par- 
ticularly the political idea. In 1910 Franklin was elected to the 
New York State Senate, where he led one battle after another 
against Tammany Hall and soon found himself a leader of the 
independent Democrats in New York State. He fought for 
Woodrow Wilson's candidacy in 1912, and Wilson appointed 


him Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He became the Demo- 
cratic candidate for Vice-President in 1920 with James Cox of 
Ohio. They lost badly to Harding's tidal wave of Republican 
"normalcy," a reaction against war, the internationalist Wilson, 
and his bloody battle for the League of Nations. 

The following August at Campobello, New Brunswick, 
Canada, F.D.R. was suddenly stricken with infantile paralysis 
which paralyzed him from the hips down. Only by courageous 
and determined effort did he regain some use of his legs; but 
he never again walked unaided. At the 1924 and 1928 Demo- 
cratic National Conventions he placed the name of Alfred E. 
Smith, the Governor of New York, in nomination. Smith made 
it in 1928 only to lose to Herbert Hoover, at least in part be- 
cause Smith was a Catholic and an anti-Prohibitionist. But 
while Smith was losing nationally, Franklin Roosevelt was 
winning the Governorship of New York as Smith's successor. 
He was re-elected in 1930; by 1932 he was himself a foremost 
candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, though 
his record as Governor was relatively undistinguished until the 
legislative hearing of charges of Tammany corruption which 
led to the resignation of Jimmy Walker as Mayor of New 

As Governor, Roosevelt presided over the Walker hearing 
and it seemed at first that the Governor feared Tammany's 
power in an election year, for little or no aid and comfort was 
given those who sought to expose Walker or Tammany's patent 
misrule. Suddenly, however, the dapper little New York Mayor 
admitted that he had as much as misappropriated certain funds 
for which he could not account and Roosevelt asked him if 
he didn't think that was wrongdoing. 

*Well, w Mayor Walker admitted, "it may have been un- 

*But Mr. Mayor," said Franklin D. Roosevelt, "what is un- 
ethical is wrong" 

Walker resigned that night, September i, 1932. The Gover- 
nor had defied Tammany. From that moment on F.D.R. was 
a man marked for destiny. He had arrogantly snubbed the 
power of Tammany Hall, which had controlled almost a hun- 

Amazing Hundred Days 221 

dred votes in that summer's Democratic National Convention. 
He had stood on the side of the angels and he had won. 

Like Cleveland and T.R. before him, his reform record in 
the face of Tammany Hall as a Democratic Governor of New 
York had shot him to the top as a favorite for larger matters. 
(William G. McAdoo, Woodrow Wilson's son-in-law, had 
switched from John N. Garner of Texas to F.D.R. at the con- 
vention, and Smith had fumed while Roosevelt was nomi- 
nated. ) 

It is difficult to keep remembering always that Franklin D. 
Roosevelt was a cripple from his early manhood and that he 
never walked unaided after 1921. For his amazing energy 
began to show itself to the nation in the hour of his nomina- 
tion when he flew to Chicago to accept the honor, rather than 
be notified officially at home, as had been the custom. He was 
the first presidential nominee to fly in a plane. 

The Wall Street stock crash of October, 1929, had by the fall 
of 1932 fused a far deeper business depression than America 
had ever undergone before. Since Herbert Hoover had been 
President throughout this period, he was blamed for most of 
it at an emotional pitch seldom reached by the ordinarily 
placid American. To put it bluntly, a large segment of the 
country hated Herbert Hoover with all its being and did not 
hesitate to tell him so. This was not a partisan matter, more- 
over; if a Republican in Centerville, Illinois, had lost his life 
savings and his livelihood, he could scarcely be blamed for 
believing that President Hoover was less than a genius and 
for becoming caustic about it. 

In addition, Hoover kept referring to Prohibition of legal 
liquor, including light wines and beer, as "that noble experi- 
ment," but by no means promised to repeal it if re-elected. 
Roosevelt, on the other hand, made no bones about his dislike 
for Prohibition and forecast its quick repeal after November. If 
any political weight had been required to tip the scale in his 
behalf this was more than enough. The Iowa Quaker simply 
couldn't have won in the circumstances. Every move he made 
seemed inept and gauche. 


With victory inevitable, Roosevelt did not campaign as 
vigorously as contemporary memory would have us believe. 
Looking back at the printed record, he seems to have taken 
few renegade stands on big issues of the day, preferring in- 
stead to generalize on his "New Deal/' a persuasive appeal to 
the unfortunate, the underdog, the "average man" (whoever 
he was) 3 the disenchanted, and the thirsty. 

The rank smell of rot and stagnation deepening over the 
capitalistic system of free enterprise in America and the West- 
ern world progressively reduced President Hoover's chances. 
He had the misfortune to be working with a hostile Demo- 
cratic Congress from 1930 on. He was also the victim of his 
own training and personality. Intelligent and well educated, 
Hoover possessed an engineer's mind and a wealthy man's 
economic outlook. Since his wealth had been earned (while 
Roosevelt's had been handed to him), the ironically perverse 
logic of human nature decreed that F.D.R. would have more 
regard for those who earned their living than would the self- 
made Hoover, who was incapable of apostasy. 

Whatever kindliness and friendship had ever existed between 
President Hoover and F.D.R. quickly fell apart as the cam- 
paign progressed. 1 The two had known each other for many 
years, in a joint crusade during World War I and the recon- 
struction of Europe that had made Hoover a world-famous 
humanitarian. Admiration which had led F.D.R. to advocate 
Herbert Hoover for President in 1920 was by 1932 thoroughly 
vitiated. Governor Roosevelt had, however, a very private 
reason for disliking the man now President of the United 
States and his election opponent, or he thought he had. 

In the spring of 1932, President Hoover had invited the 
annual Governor's conference at Richmond to dine at the 
White House. The spring of 1932 had been Roosevelt's critical 
time in the search for Chicago delegates, and one of the chief 
arguments against Ms candidacy was that he had had polio 
and wasn't physically up to the demanding job of being Presi- 
dent, Knowing how long it took F.D.R. to move from an auto- 

i. Frank B. Freidel, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Vol. Ill (Boston, Little, 
Brown and Company, 1956), p. 323. 

Amazing Hundred Days 

mobile, up steps, or any distance at all under his own 
locomotion, the Roosevelts arrived quite early at the White 
House. With Mrs. Roosevelt on one arm, grasping a cane with 
the other, F.D.R. managed to make the East Room under his 
own power, but the effort exhausted him. His crippled lower 
limbs ached and throbbed for relief. 

Protocol required that all guests stand until President Hoover 
and his wife should appear to greet them, but the Hoovers 
did not appear for a very long time. On several occasions, 
Roosevelt was offered a chair, but always declined for fear 
the whispering campaign about his polio disability might be 
somehow intensified. For almost forty minutes he stood there 
in absolute torment, the steel braces cutting into his legs and 
beads of perspiration dotting his face, which never ceased 
to smile. Frank Freidel rightly points out 2 that a man as essen- 
tially decent and humane as Hoover could never have been 
as deliberately cruel. Yet F.D.R. never ceased to be suspicious, 
and things were never quite the same between the two former 

Personalities aside, the Republicans faced grass roots re- 
volts from every quarter. William Allen White observed that 
"only the Democrats will save Hoover. . . . How, I don't know, 
but they are versatile and can find some way in crises." The 
Republicans hoped and prayed for the usual Democratic split 
in what had been a loose political coalition since the Civil 
War. None came. The Republicans hoped and prayed for a 
spectacular return to prosperity. The Depression only deep- 
ened. The Republicans hoped and prayed that candidate 
Roosevelt would eventually make a fool of himself, stumble 
into egregious error in the heat of a skinnish, lose the confi- 
dence of certain Eastern business and financial elements whose 
support he had to have to win. But no campaign error was 
made. The Republicans hoped and prayed that the agrarian 
revolt of the solid Republican central West would somehow 
dissolve and "normalcy" return. But the agrarian revolt pro- 

Actually, there were some indications of improved economic 

2. Ibid. 


status by the fall of 1932. The New York Times index of busi- 
ness activity, made up of steel production, electric power, auto, 
grain, and lumber prices, car loadings and similar funda- 
mentals, rose from 66 per cent, or two-thirds of normal activity, 
to 74 per cent, or almost three-fourths, by the end of the year. 
Herbert Hoover has always insisted that, had 1932 not been 
a presidential election year, the nation's economy would have 
righted itself. Hoover always felt that the bottom of the De- 
pression came in August, 1932, and that the Times business 
index, which rose from that base, was mathematical proof of 
it. But whatever vestige of true recovery had begun, Hoover 
felt, was destroyed by the politicking of Franklin D. Roose- 
velt and vote-hungry Democrats. 

Roosevelt, on the other hand, agreed with Claude Bowers, 3 
a historian and an ardent editorial writer, who wrote the 
Democratic candidate that the Republicans would attempt to 
inflate wheat prices through manipulating the commodity 
market. They would then have a persuasive case that prosper- 
ity was "just around the corner." F.D.R. replied to Bowers 
that he agreed about the Republican game and that their 
strategy was now "perfectly plain.** 

In any case, bullish sentiment in either Wall Street or news- 
paper business indexes did not soak down to the mass of the 
voting public, least of all the huge armies of city unemployed 
and farm malcontents. Milk was bringing Iowa farmers only 
61 ( a hundred pounds and one of Governor Roosevelt's con- 
stituents sent him a voucher showing that she had netted but 
39^ on the sale of a month-old calf. It was simply ridiculous, 
or would have been had it not been so tragic. 

Then there was the drama of the so-called Bonus Army in 
Washington. More than 10,000 unemployed war veterans were, 
by the summer of 1932, encamped in the nation's capital, many 
of them in a shantytown along the Anacostia. They wanted a 
bonus for their war duty and -they were undoubtedly a danger- 
ous lobby and certainly an eyesore in the political show window 
of America. President Hoover investigated, offered them their 
rail fare home, was rebuffed, then instructed the United States 

3. Ibid., p. 326. 

Amazing Hundred Days 225 

Army to evict them. Many, as it turned out, were in truth Com- 
munist agitators and fewer than half were actual war vet- 

Unfortunately for Hoover and the Republicans, however, 
the Army Chief of Staff at that hour was General Douglas Mac- 
Arthur who, dazzling in medals and self-righteously vigorous 
in new uniform, brought out tanks and soldiers with gas masks 
and fixed bayonets, as though the ugly encampment were a 
host of German snipers. 

In its enthusiasm under MacArthur, the Army greatly ex- 
ceeded Hoover's order to evict. It may well have been a neces- 
sary executive move, but as executed it was abysmally bad 
politics. Nothing could have been better calculated by the 
Democrats to increase so expertly President Hoover's mount- 
ing unpopularity. Resplendent General MacArthur had, in 
less than an hour, dramatized as no Democrat had been able 
to dramatize, the desperation, degradation, and danger of the 
economic ill health of a nation as close to revolution as it had 
ever been. 

But MacArthur's conquest of the Bonus Army alone would 
not have defeated Herbert Hoover. The Bonus Army simply rep- 
resented in microcosm the times and stresses, unprecedented 
in their severity, range, length, and depth. Controls over giant 
corporations had been relaxed in the reaction against Wilson- 
ian democracy and reform. Rugged individualism had com- 
bined with new, high protective duties, and consequent post- 
war overproduction had shot America's prosperity to dizzy 
heights. The powerful engine had been running at top speed, 
but no one had thought to check the brakes. 

The October, 1929, collapse of the stock market, where 
every other businessman and many a housewife had had a 
tenuous margin account, had broken the bubble. Boom pros- 
perity collapsed with startling rapidity, bringing with it the 
worst Depression the country had ever known. This was no 
local bank panic, to be quickly recovered. It was a long-term 
disease in the body economic, and radical measures were 
needed to cure it. They were not forthcoming under the Re- 


In the beginning of 1929, peak year of the Hoover prosper- 
ity ("two chickens in every pot, two cars in every garage"), 
only 3 per cent of the population had been unemployed. By 
1930 this figure had risen to 9 per cent, tripling in one year. 
By 1931 the unemployed of the country were 16 per cent of 
its working force and by 1932 one breadwinner in four was out 
of work and many of the employed were teetering or nearly 
bankrupt. On the Saturday that Franklin D. Roosevelt was 
sworn in, it was likely that almost 30 per cent of the employ- 
ables of the United States were without regular jobs. No one 
will ever really know. 

The consequent effect of such a disastrous shortage of in- 
come was nowhere more dramatic than in the businesses of real 
estate and farming. Mortgages were now being repudiated so 
rapidly that some banks could not keep up with the clerical 
paper work involved in foreclosing, which was often delayed 
because there was no one to whom the house could be sold, 
anyway. Similarly, the American farmer couldn't sell his pro- 
duce for what it cost him to raise it. He would never starve, 
as his urban contemporary might and did, but he was as near 
to true revolt as a conservative American fanner can get and 
remain law-abiding. In the circumstances, only the fortuitous 
appearance of Eoosevelt and the hopes he engendered pre- 
vented a farmer-labor political coup, or worse. 

On October 25 at Baltimore, candidate Roosevelt let go 
with one final blast against Hoover and the "Four Horsemen 
of the present Republican leadership; the Horsemen of De- 
struction, Delay, Deceit, Despair/' It was an interesting speech 
from many points of view. It was Roosevelt* s most belligerent 
campaign document and into it the Democratic candidate ad 
libbed an implied criticism of the Supreme Court which, he 
said in passing, was controlled by reaction, like the Presidency 
and the Congress. 

Hoover replied bitterly; but F.D.R. controlled Ms temper, 
and his election eve broadcast, a moderate and statesmanlike 
fireside chat from Poughkeepsie, was a classic upon which all 
politicians might well base their final nonpartisan utterances. 
That Bight he was talking like a President of the United 

Amazing Hundred Days 227 

States, and Hoover was like a desperate and overmatched con- 
tender. The nation sensed it, too, and there is not the slightest 
doubt that the quiet confidence, the supple philosophy, the 
warmth and intimacy of one contrasted so sharply with the 
waspish finale of the other that F.D.R. gained many a voter 
the night before the prostrate, angry nation went to the 

Was President Roosevelt regarded as a potential great from 
the moment of his election? Far from it. Walter Lippmann, one 
of the shrewdest observers, who later became his champion, 
wrote to the independent Republican Senator William E. 
Borah, who had repudiated Hoover: 4 

It'll be a great relief to have the election over, and to 
me at least, though I have the deepest reservations about 
Franklin Roosevelt, a relief to be rid of the present 
administration. It's so utterly discredited that it no longer 
has any usefulness as an instrument of government. And 
even assuming that Roosevelt isn't any better than Hoover, 
a new man for a little while will be better than a man 
who's worn out and used up. 

This, beyond doubt, was what many millions of Americans 
felt as Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood to take the oath of 
office on the misty, raw Saturday which was March 4, 1933. 
Forgotten now was the monumental landslide of November 6, 
in which the Democrat had ravaged the incumbent Republican 
by 472 votes to 59 in the electoral college and 22,821,857 to 
15,761,845 in total popularity. That this electorate now ex- 
pected something more creative than what it had been getting 
in the White House needed no proof. Just what that something 
would be no man in his right mind could have accurately 
forecast in the blackest inauguration since Abraham Lincoln's 
first in 1861. 

Fundamental problem for every reasoning citizen on March 
4, 1933, was the collapsing banking system of the United States. 
Before anything else could be coped with, a radical incision 
had to be made to open the fester that was blocking and 

4. Letter from Lippmann to Borah, November 3, 1932. 


polluting the flow of currency. The infected economic blood- 
stream of the nation had slowed to a dangerous level. It might 
well halt altogether if "confidence impaired" wasn't quickly 
exchanged for "confidence restored." It was, most men knew, 
largely a matter of confidence. 

Hoover had asked in February that the President-elect come 
to a White House conference on the spreading bank runs and 
their resultant panic and chaos. But Hoover had hastened to 
make it plain that the conference was to be on his own terms, 
on measures he had already proposed and wanted Democratic 
sanction for. He seemed to want the new President to repudi- 
ate the "New Deal" before it had begun, and the foremost 
New Dealer would have none of it. What Roosevelt wished 
above all else was to avoid responsibility without power; he 
was smart enough politically to refuse the conference and yet 
be held blameless by an adoring constituency which had just 
given him the greatest political majority in U. S. history. 

A string of newly nationalized banks in Ohio and Michigan 
had just closed their doors and the flow of money in the great 
Cleveland-Detroit-Chicago industrial area was by now almost 
completely frozen. What banks were not affected were never- 
theless in danger of runs. But a run on a bank was nothing new 
in itself. There had been contagious runs on banks as long as 
there had been U. S. panics, which was about once every 
generation. What made this situation unique was the solidity 
of the frost and its widespread effect. Something had to be 
done and done immediately to induce a thaw in the frozen 
assets of a good share of the nation's banking institutions. Until 
that thaw set in, little would move in the normal currency 
circulation of commerce, industry, or finance. Fear was the 
catalytic agent in the frost. Fear had first to be removed before 
there could be any glimmering hope of better economic 

President Roosevelt had already decided on two main lines 
of attack before coming to Washington for the inaugural. These 
two points boiled down to the removal of tbe catalytic agent, 
fear. To accomplish this, F.D.R. proposed to call an immedi- 
ate special session of the Congress, then declare a national 

Amazing Hundred Days 229 

bank holiday that is, to close all the banks in the country so 
that no more would fall to the gathering panic of bank runs. 
The President also planned to invoke a forgotten provision of 
a wartime act known as "trading with the enemy." This act 
had never been repealed. Under its provisions, a President had 
the right to control gold, which was by now being hoarded at a 
frightening rate because people were instinctively afraid of 
paper money. 

The special session was called for Thursday, March 9, and 
William H. Woodin, the new Secretary of the Treasury, a mar- 
velous guitar-playing imp of a man with an extraordinary sense 
of humor and courage far in excess of his physical frailty, 
promised faithfully to have the emergency banking measure 
written up in time for Congressional action. Woodin began 
working on it half an hour after the inauguration on Saturday. 
He worked at it for three days and nights without much sleep 
and almost no food, which held little interest for him even in 
normal circumstances. 

On Sunday, after lunch, the new Cabinet met. Within four 
hours, Roosevelt issued the first two of many emergency meas- 
ures designed to thaw the icy grasp of fear in which Amer- 
ica's hope was encased. Before sundown Sunday, a special 
session had been summoned and, more important because it 
bought a week's precious time, the bank holiday had been 

To their credit, Hoover's departing bank experts stayed on 
to help. Ogden Mills, Woodin's predecessor, told the group of 
financial brains who now assembled in the Treasury to produce 
a workable program to save the nation's banks and, said Mills, 
"if they can't, let the President and Mr. Woodin tell us to get 
the devil out of here and get some men who can/' 5 Raymond 
Moley put it best: "We'd forgotten to be Republicans or Demo- 
crats. We were just a bunch of men trying to save the banking 

Since Moley had been one of the chief brain trusters during 
the campaign and was now Assistant Secretary under Woodin 

5. From personal conversation with Ogden Mills soon after the crisis 


who was himself the bogyman of "socialism" the first 
moments of the New Deal in office appeared pretty silly all 
around. From an objective point of view, Franklin D. Roose- 
velt's early, initial steps in the remarkable "Hundred Days" 
could not nave been closer to the tenets of free enterprise 
capitalism if Adam Smith himself had taken them. It was by 
common necessity a national crusade, with the temper of 
America similar in many respects to that in wartime nonparti- 
sanship. The banking system was at the core of capitalism 
and its present trauma affected every nerve and muscle of an 
American economy indisposed to radical measures. 

Many progressives felt there was now a golden opportunity 
to create the first true national banking system the country 
had ever had. Senators Costigan of Colorado and La Follette of 
Wisconsin paid a White House call the night before the special 
session opened and begged the new President to go all the 
way while he had the chance. Most of Congress was convinced 
that the New Deal would, then and there, seize such a golden 
opportunity. Senator Cutting of New Mexico believed that a 
national bank could have been proclaimed without a word of 
protest and the frustrating decades of progressive hope might 
at that very moment have been consummated. But, La Follette 
said afterward, Roosevelt's mind was made up and could not 
be changed. He stilled his visitors: That isn't necessary at 
all. I've just had every assurance of cooperation from the 

These aren't the words of an apostate flirting with opportune 
radicalism. They are the words of a man born to capitalistic 
free enterprise and loath to rend it or toss it overboard without 
a better substitute. They give an entirely different picture of 
Franklin D. Roosevelt from the admittedly biased editorial 
pages of Ms time. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., says of this amazing 
period of the bank holiday: 6 "The very moneychangers, whose 
flight from their high seats in the temple the President had 
so grandiloquently proclaimed in his Inaugural address, were 
now swarming through the corridors of the Treasury." 

6. Arthur M. ScHesinger, Jr., The Coming of the New Deal (Boston, 
Houghton Miffiin Company, 1959), p. 5. 

Amazing Hundred Days 231 

What the bank holiday did was far more than halt a run on 
what was left of the country's deposits. It was as though the 
week without banks put a period after the word "panic/' By 
the end of three days, few Americans could or would change 
a twenty-dollar bill and nobody seemed to care. The country 
was in becoming holiday mood. Fear was disappearing. It was 
as though a great weight had been lifted. Psychologically 
nothing else would have worked as well. 

The bank holiday closed the door on the ugly past. When the 
banks reopened the following week, it was as though an ex- 
pert new driver were behind the wheel, which truth was to 
be made crystal clear to all by summertime. A newsman from 
the New York Herald Tribune went in to see Woodin the 
night before Congress was to convene. He asked the Secretary 
of the Treasury if the new banking bill were finished. The Sec- 
retary was sitting on the front edge of his desk, strumming 
his guitar and singing in a squeaky croak, because he'd had 
little or no sleep for half a week. 

"The bill is finished/ said the musical Secretary, swinging 
his legs in rhythm, "and my name is Bill, and I'm finished 

The following noon the special Congress assembled, less 
than one week after inauguration. Only one copy of Mr. 
Woodin's bill was available. There had been no time to print 
it, for Roosevelt was making pencil corrections right up to 

By unanimous consent, House debate was limited to one 
hour. At 4:00 P.M. the measure passed unanimously without a 
roll call. Scarcely a handful of those present had seen the bill 
and almost no one really comprehended it. In the Senate, 
windy Huey Long from Louisiana pressed for amendments and 
was shouted down. At 7:30 P.M., by a vote of 73 to 7, the most 
remarkable piece of quick banking legislation in U. S. history 
was passed. It was immediately motorcycled to the White 
House, where it was promptly signed in the fading light of the 
same afternoon in which it had been born, a truly remarkable 
tribute to the democratic process under stress. 

It was thought better to let the public adjust to the new 


measure over the weekend, so the banks didn't open on Friday, 
March 10, but on Monday, March 13. There was an orderly, 
almost festive air to business that day; and from then on the 
circulation of the body financial improved in geometric pro- 
portion, with consequent improvement in business as icy fear 
melted. The danger of total panic had been averted. The new 
President, thought by many to be more radical than any since 
Jackson, had done it with old-fashioned capitalistic methods. 
But he had also done it with a sure legislative hand. He was 
a man in control. Here was a steerer, an accomplishes not a 
drifter or bright but vague wisher. 

New Deal strategists had first proposed that the special 
session of Congress be summoned to liquidate the banking 
emergency only, then sent home. But the new-found spirit of 
accomplishment, the momentum and eagerness already plainly 
exciting the nation seemed to the new resident of the White 
House too great an opportunity, too exhilarating a forward 
motion to waste. 

For one thing, F.D.R. had pledged during the election cam- 
paign to cut all Federal expenditures by 25 per cent in order to 
help revive the fading American economy. Led by the Scotch- 
blooded budget director, Lewis W. Douglas, Roosevelt now 
sought to balance the budget, badly dislocated by the "spend- 
thrift Hoover," who had taken emergency steps to prime the 
economic pump and get the stream of U. S. currency moving 
again. Roosevelt said, perhaps prophetically: "Too often in 
history liberal governments have been wrecked on the rocks 
of loose fiscal policy." 

Within a week, against the strongest left-wing liberal oppo- 
sition in Congress, Roosevelt's budget was balanced, largely 
through reduction of veterans' pensions, salary cuts of 25 per 
cent for all Congressmen and other Federal employees, and 
trimming of every frill and frosting from the Federal cake. 
Since left-wing liberal Senators in particular owed many a 
political obligation to the powerful veterans' and civil service 
lobbies, as well as to union labor, a 25 per cent salary cut was 
not taken lying down and the wonder is it went through at all. 

But F.D.R. won his point, and in the end cut $510,000,000 

Amazing Hundred Days 233 

from Federal expenses and balanced the budget. This was 
done largely on the passionate urging of economy-minded Lew 
Douglas, who had accomplished this unique balancing act 
without any increase in taxes. Roosevelt said to Moley: "In 
twelve years hell be a good Democratic candidate for Presi- 
dent." But by the end of twelve years both budget balancing 
and Lew Douglas were dead issues and Moley was an anti- 
New Deal columnist. 

The second Sunday of the Roosevelt Administration found 
chief magician Louis McHenry Howe and the President sipping 
their coffee and chain-smoking in an atmosphere of badinage 
at their evening meal. Suddenly Roosevelt looked at his friend, 
the political wizard who as much as any other man had made 
F.D.R. President of the United States, and said: "I think, Louis, 
this would be a good time for beer." Howe snorted in delight, 
left the table, returned with a copy of the Democratic cam- 
paign platform, and between them they then and there wrote 
on the dining-room table a brief message to Congress favoring 
immediate modification of the Volstead Act to legalize light 
wines and beer. 

The following morning, Monday, March 13, the special ses- 
sion of Congress received the beer message. On Tuesday, ig- 
noring a covey from the Woman's Christian Temperance Union 
and the Anti-Saloon League, the House voted for beer with 
3.2 per cent alcoholic content. ( Some German beers approach 
10 per cent alcohol by volume, but the avid American public 
didn't remember and didn't care anyway, so long as it had 
something legal to slake its long thirst. ) The Senate agreed on 
Thursday, with only a pretense of a hearing for the Dry lobby. 
Within a week's time, the two most powerful lobbies on The 
Hill the veterans and the prohibitionists had been utterly 
routed by this increasingly incredible New Deal. 

It was little wonder that a new Treasury bond issue was 
oversubscribed before lunch time the next day. Nor was it 
amazing that the nation's security and commodity markets in 
Wall Street, where the vast trouble had first started, immedi- 
ately showed a pronounced bullish mood on reopening follow- 
ing the bank holiday hiatus. Confidence and buoyance were 


contagious throughout the land. Banks were for the first time in 
months taking in more money than was being withdrawn. The 
disastrous runs and danger of new runs had all but ceased. 
Walter Lippmann could write: 7 "At the beginning of March 
the country was in such a state of confused desperation that 
it would have followed almost any leader anywhere he chose 
to go. In one week, the nation, which had lost confidence in 
everything and everybody, has regained confidence in the gov- 
ernment itself." 

The President added the open press conference and the 
fireside chat to his widening techniques, speaking directly to 
the people as he had to the Congress. The press conference 
was an amazing idea in itself. Up to then there had usually 
been the traditional "White House spokesman" who stood 
between newspapermen and the President. Now only a desk 
cluttered with mementos, most of them marine, some of them 
boyish, stood between them. 

F.D.R. told his first White House news conference of more 
than 100 excited newsmen that he had been warned that what 
he was about to try would be impossible, but he was going 
to try it just the same. The first news conference came during 
the banking crisis, on the eve of the opening of the special 
session. It was so fresh, so frank, so friendly, such a break 
with precedent, such a step toward true democratic give and 
take, that when it was over the hardened news people broke 
into sharp, spontaneous applause. As an institution, the presi- 
dential press conference was here to stay. 

Then, on Sunday night, March 12, the President gave the 
entire nation the first of his fireside chats by radio. It was an 
explanation in amazingly simple language of the bank crisis, 
why it had happened, why the banks had been closed, why they 
were being opened. Will Rogers said that F.D.R. made every- 
body understand the highly complicated subject, "even the 
bankers." Republicans who had feared F.D.R. now sent him 
ecstatic letters and telegrams. Hearst wrote: "I guess at your 
next election we will make it unanimous I" A New York Times 
reporter wrote: "There is no more resemblance between the 

7. "Review of Reviews,** May, 1933. 

Amazing Hundred Days 235 

citadel of aloofness Mr. Hoover built and the friendly, welcom- 
ing air of the executive offices now than there would be be- 
tween a formal embassy tea and old-home week at Hyde 
Park" 8 

The fireside chats were an immediate success because Roose- 
velt was an absolute master of public speaking technique, par- 
ticularly radio technique. He projected. He was a pleasure to 
listen to. He put complex things into plain language. He was 
thoroughly at home in front of a microphone, the first and only 
contemporary to be so, for Truman and Eisenhower never 
mastered either radio or TV delivery, and radio broadcasting 
absolutey petrified Hoover. 

But the most striking contrast was between the Hoover 
approach and Roosevelt's to the bonus veterans in Anacostia. 
Hoover had sent the army. Roosevelt sent his wife. The vet- 
erans were offered three meals a day; dentists and doctors 
came and ministered to them; the President saw their delega- 
tions; a large convention tent was put up by F.D.R. for their 
meetings; and Louis Howe drove Eleanor out there one muddy 
afternoon and, after a long walk through shin-deep mud, Mrs. 
R. led them in the singing of "There's a Long Long Trail a- 
Winding," though of recent presidential wives she had the poor- 
est musical ear. Within ten days, most of the Bonus Army had 
been absorbed into the Civilian Conservation Corps and 
Roosevelt's skill at handling difficult situations was once again 
crystal clear. 

But the most important point of all was that what Roosevelt 
had done legislatively he had done through existing Constitu- 
tional means. Hamilton Fish, no left-wing liberal, called the 
Roosevelt Administration "an American dictatorship based on 
the consent of the governed without any violation of indi- 
vidual liberty or human rights/' He could not have defined 
F.D.R.'s metier more clearly. Here was a President using 
the Presidency in a new way. Here was a Chief Executive who 
seemed to be saying to the duly elected representatives of the 
people: "I ask for dictatorial powers never before granted in 
peacetime. I ask for them because this isn't any ordinary, 

8. New York Times, March 19, 1933. 


routine adversary this is The Great Depression, and we must 
use extraordinary measures to reduce it/* 

Up to mid-March, the President had done nothing at all 
along the lines of the New Deal reforms he had hinted at dur- 
ing his campaign. On Thursday, March 16, however, less than 
two weeks after his inauguration, Roosevelt asked the Congress 
for a new Federal concept for the American farmer national 
planning for U. S. agriculture. 

This was but the first of a long series of fundamental changes 
in the American economic system and the government's role of 
prying into the private business, even the private lives, of its 
citizens. As T.R. had felt, it was the government's business to 
step in when a company got too big for its breeches, so F.D.R. 
opened now the greatest barrage in U. S. history on capitalistic 
license and snobbery. The great agricultural planning reorgan- 
ization was simply the first, and it was a shock to many a 
conservative when it came. 

With this and other impending New Deal reform and plan- 
ning measures came a kind of public servant wholly new to the 
Capitol. Hard times had made available tremendous pools of 
talent in law, engineering, and education men who operated 
at the theoretical level of thought. Government had seldom 
wanted them before; now it needed them by the thousands to 
help blaze the New Deal's wilderness trails and by the thou- 
sands they came. Arthur Schlesinger says: "Each prominent 
New Dealer acted as his own employment agency," and Wash- 
ington was soon bubbling with intellectual ability and bright 
young minds the like of which it hadn't seen since the Jack- 
sonian revolution. 

Washington had never seemed to be much like a real city, 
said Anne O'Hare McCormick of the New Jork Times. Now 
it had been "annexed to the United States." Raymond Tucker 
wrote in Colliers: "They [the New Dealers] have transformed 
it from a placid, leisurely Southern town, with frozen faces and 
customs, into a gay, breezy, sophisticated and metropolitan 
center." Arthur Krock found this bright, merry group of sing- 

g, "National Air," Collier's, 93:22 (January 27, 1934). 

Amazing Hundred Days 237 

ing, drinking, uninhibited public servants 'Tiearty eaters and 
colossal workers." Krock also wrote what everyone In Wash- 
ington soon knew: "The President is the boss, the dynamo, 
the works." 10 

F.D.R. had been inaugurated on Saturday, March 4. Between 
that hour and the adjournment of the Seventy-third Congress 
on June 16, 1933, the people and their elected legislators had 
been subjected to an unceasing barrage of fresh ideas from 
the President of the United States, the like of which had never 
been seen before in Washington. In the fantastic Hundred 
Days of the special session, both houses of Congress were sent 
legislation so radical in concept that even now their ready 
accomplishment defines the unbelievable. 

Many at the policy-making levels of the nation, especially on 
the liberal-progressive side of political thought, had known 
Franklin Delano Roosevelt all his adult life and thought they 
had his measure. They were mistaken, and they did not hesi- 
tate to say so. For in the incredible Hundred Days this same 
Roosevelt they thought they knew had made ten major 
speeches, sent fifteen legislative messages to Congress, and 
received for signature in record time fifteen pieces of major 
legislation almost precisely as he had demanded them. 

Had he been a dictator, his will could not in a hundred days 
have been more perfectly accomplished. He was using the 
Presidency for the first time as the powerful instrument some 
of the nation's founders had foreseen it a century and a half 

Raymond Moley, who was there, says it was a trying time, 
however, for subordinates. 11 

None of us close to FDR lived normal lives. Confusion, 
haste, the dread of making mistakes, the consciousness of 
responsibility for the economic well-being of millions of 
people made mortal inroads on the health of some of us, 
like Rill Woodin and Joe Robinson (who soon died), and 
left the rest of us ready to snap at our own images in the 

10. New York Times, March 12, 1933. 

11. Raymond Moley, After Seven Years (New York, Harper and 
Brothers, 1939), p. 191. 


mirror. Only Roosevelt preserved the air of a man who'd 
found a happy way of life. 

Moley adds that there was **a vastly greater amount of give- 
and-take in his attitude toward the 'Hundred Days' Congress 
than the country realized." And it is nonsense to suppose that 
as sensitive a human being as FranHin D. Roosevelt did not 
lose sleep on occasion when he considered what he alone had 
done to his country and what fantastic powers he had now 
accepted as virtual dictator of the economic system. 

For, in the course of just over three months, the President's 
"rubber stamp Congress" passed the following major measures: 

March 9: Emergency Banking Act 

March 16: Legalized beer 

March 2,0: Government Economy Act 

March 31: Civilian Conservation Corps 

April 19: Abandoned gold standard 

May 12: Agricultural Adjustment Act 

May 12: Emergency Farm Mortgage Act 

May 12: Federal Emergency Relief Act 

May 18: Tennessee Valley Authority Act 

May 27: Truth-in-Securities Act 

June 13: Home Owners Loan Act 

June 16: National Industrial Recovery Act 

June 16: Glass-Steagall Ranking Act 

June 16: Farm Credit Act 

June 16: Railroad Coordination Act 

Roosevelt bad repudiated the traditional gold standard and 
the traditional marriage between investment banking and de- 
posit banking. He had regulated stock buying. He had put the 
government's name behind virtually all the bank deposits in 
the country, guaranteeing them under the Glass-Steagall act. 
He was in a position to wreck permanently every precept of 
free enterprise, and some would say in the end that he had 
accomplished it, to serve his own political ambitions. It re- 
quired, as Moley put it, "no neurotic temperament to see that 

Amazing Hundred Days 239 

these unprecedented monetary and credit controls could be 
utilized so unwisely as to throw the economic system com- 
pletely out of kilter for the same human reasons that they 
might be utilized so skillfully as to help stabilize it.*" 12 Long 
steps had been taken toward the exercise of credit control, 
monetary control, and the unification of the state and national 
banking systems. 

Usually in national crises in American history, the power of 
the executive has faded into an amalgam of national patriotic 
effort in which the legislative has suddenly come alive and 
public opinion has stoked the fire quite nicely. This was so as 
F.D.R. came to power; the events helped make the man, though 
it had to be the right man in the right pkce at the right time. 
And F.D.R. was surely the one. 

Just the same, there's no evidence that Roosevelt looked upon 
his suddenly granted dictatorial powers as permanent, despite 
screams in the enemy camp. He regarded what he must do as 
a desperate measure and his dictatorship of the Hundred Days 
as the best and only means of riding out the storm. He could 
not have done it in a different aura or context. 

Through the emergency banking acts he had, however, per- 
manently altered the concept and practice of the handling of 
money in this country and of gold as its god. Through legaliza- 
tion of beer, and later full repeal of the Eighteenth Amend- 
ment, he began to bring the nation back to its senses in its 
regard for law, though the bloody gang tradition engendered 
by Prohibition has never fully left us. Through the economy 
acts he fulfilled for a time one of the strangest political planks 
that could be imagined in association with the New Deal, for 
deficit financing and unbalanced budgets soon became the 
rule of his long tenure and the stamp of his policy. 

But beginning in May all of the quick remedies were over- 
shadowed by the first of the great reform bills which had 
more to do with fundamentals than with palliatives. The sud- 
den throbbing of the nation's circulation now enabled the 
President to carry over some of this momentum into permanent 

12. Ibid. p. 279. 


changes that had been coming for generations, among them 
American social security measures and economic protections 
and restrictions bordering on Socialism long accepted as part 
o European life. The first of these had to do with agriculture 
and real estate. 

Through the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, F.D.K. 
now began to conduct a vast experiment in controlling the pro- 
duction of the farm and the prices farmers got for their pro- 
duce. The President proposed to tax the consumer for the 
benefit of the producer. The farmer would for the first time 
in history be practically guaranteed a minimum income and 
the eating nation would pay for it. Gone forever, it would seem, 
was pure supply and demand. With it, hoped F.D.R. and Henry 
Wallace, the theorizing farm lieutenant, there would be an end 
to the unmanageable surplus which annually depressed the 
market at the very moment the farmer harvested it. 

Mortgages, especially farm mortgages, were next examined. 
The Federal Home Owners Loan Act soon made the govern- 
ment of the United States the largest mortgage banker in the 
world. It also saved for millions of Americans, farmers in par- 
ticular, their firesides and their life savings. 

Then there was Federal relief, proposed on a gigantic scale 
for the first time. Up to now relief had been a local matter. 
Through his nationwide relief program, F.D.R. gave sanction 
to the philosophy that the "Federal government must assure 
all its citizens a minimum livelihood/* 13 Combined with later 
social security measures this giant step was perhaps the most 
radical departure ever taken by an American President. Cer- 
tainly it was among the most far-reaching and probably the 
most shocking to the sentient traditionalist, though there were 
many still unaware of its awesome dimensions. 

Next came the controversial yardstick for electric power, 
the Tennessee Valley Authority, which put government 
squarely into the private power business with the taxpayers* 
money. Not only did the TVA act of May 18, 1933, set up a 
public vs. private power argument that hasn't come near settle- 
ment, even now, but it also involved flood control, creative 

13. Franklin D. Roosevelt Papers. 

Amazing Hundred Days 241 

conservation, regional planning, and homesteading for one 
area at the expense of millions who would never see or benefit 
from its vast experiment. The private "public utility" would 
be engaged in the fight of its life; public competition with 
private power was now a hideous and seemingly permanent 

But it took the National Industrial Recovery Act, parent of 
the NRA blue eagle, to shatter whatever comforting illusions 
remained about F.D.R. in conservative minds. In the NRA, 
Roosevelt was recognizing the hazards of unfettered production 
and competition, experimenting as no American before him 
had experimented in the interests of the wage earner, the con- 
sumer and, in theory at least, the employer. Social exploration 
at such stratospheric heights might have given pause to a hard- 
ened President in the latter part of his second term. Coming in 
the first hundred days of Roosevelt's first administration it was 
all the more wonderful and fantastic. Discretionary powers in 
the hands of the man in the White House were now too stag- 
gering to be understood or comprehended by the average 
voter. Yet somehow they suited Roosevelt, whose courage, said 
a contemporary, was "absolute." 14 

The Glass-Steagall Banking Act not only secured the people's 
money but committed the government to cracking down (an 
NRA cliche) on irresponsible securities and promotions, and 
regulation of the primary capital markets, such as Wall Street, 
where the Securities and Exchange Commission soon became 
a financial policeman. 

Through the Farm Credit Act and the Railroad Coordination 
Act, Roosevelt moved to show the power of centralized govern- 
ment in a shrinking world; unification and co-operation would 
henceforth replace disinterest and dispersal as national policy, 
even after he was gone. The Federal government was now in 
everybody's business. 

Although F.D.R. co-operated with members of his party and 
his own official family and was more keenly aware of the 
importance of political mechanics than any President but Lin- 

14. From conversation with Mrs. Frances Perkins, FJD.R/s Secretary 
of Labor. 


coin, his native tendency to be independent made itself pain- 
fully evident every now and then. Things could look altogether 
different from one day to the next from where the President 
sat, whereas they might seem to be relatively changeless to a 
man like James A. Farley, Postmaster General and patronage 
boss of tie Democratic Party in those early years. Farley 
later complained bitterly that Roosevelt did not keep his word 
as President and as leader of his party. But Edward J. Flynn, 
a New York political leader, wrote something all politicians 
ought to read on the subject of commitment and failure to 
keep one's word when President of the United States: 15 

The office of President, as everyone knows, is one of great 
power, but it also has been pointed out that no President can 
keep all the commitments he makes. This is readily under- 
standable in President Roosevelt's case. He did make com- 
mitments that in many cases he did not keep. It is only fair 
to say that in most instances there was a good explanation 
for this failure. What might be wise to do one week might 
not he wise in the next. The President's judgment in such 
matters has to be taken. 

The point involves much more than patronage and private 
political commitment in the story of F.D.R/s Hundred Days. 
He had campaigned on comparatively conservative ground; 
his early handling of the banking crisis had been along most 
orthodox, capitalistic lines. Yet as the special session opened 
vast opportunities for him to make permanent changes in the 
American system, many of them generations overdue, he did 
not fail to repudiate the past, forget his campaign promises 
(the balanced budget is a good example), break with leaders of 
his own paxty, and, in some cases, replace them with men who 
were more keenly aware of the vast revolution that had be- 

Revolution it was! A rereading of the contemporary story of 
the Hundred Days does nothing to destroy the amazement 
one feels at how much was accomplished, for good or ill de- 
pending on the reader's point of view, between March and 

15. Edward J. Flynn, Jou're the Boss (New York, The Viking Press, 
1947), p. 164. 

Amazing Hundred Days 243 

June, 1933. Walter Lippmann put it this way: "In the Hundred 
Days from March to June we became again an organized 
nation confident of our power to provide for our country and 
to control our own destiny/' 16 

A year and a half later, when many an intelligent American 
still did not grasp the scope and vision of the Roosevelt revo- 
lution, Winston Churchill wrote in an American magazine: 17 

The courage, the power and the scale of [Roosevelt's] 
effort must enlist the ardent sympathy of every country, and 
his success could not fail to lift the whole world forward 
into the sunlight of an easier and more genial age. Roosevelt 
is an explorer who has embarked on a voyage as uncertain 
as that of Columbus, and upon a quest which might con- 
ceivably be as important as the discovery of the New World. 

This is the professional historian speaking, the man who has 
read all there is to read about the past and who will make 
history himself in the bloody years just ahead, part of them in 
friendly partnership with the same Roosevelt he now assesses. 
It is doubtful if, in the history of any country, one hundred 
days ever encompassed as many permanent changes in the 
fundamental structure and pattern of a nation's way of life 
as took place between the inauguration on a misty, cold Sat- 
urday in March and the sticky hot June recess day, 1933, when 
the great flowering came to an end, though other blossoms 
would appear. 

Certainly, as Churchill said later of Franklin Roosevelt, 
"his life must ... be regarded as one of the commanding 
events in human destiny." 18 His incalculable effect on the 
Presidency is proved, if in no other way, by the fact that, as 
with Lincoln and Washington, the Roosevelt legend is not 
based strictly on fact, but on what the people want to believe 
of him. 

As he said himself, his generation had "a rendezvous with 
destiny." No man ever sat in the White House more aware of 

16. As told to the New York Herald Tribune Forum, 1933. 

17. "While the World Watches," Collier's, 94:24-25 (December 29, 

18. As quoted in the New York Herald Tribune. 


that rendezvous nor more capable technically of using his 
office to steer an unwavering course toward its fulfillment, 
though to accomplish the end meant asking for and being 
granted dangerous dictatorial powers no President had ever 
asked nor been granted before his time. 

Harry Truman 

New Yorker said of Harry Truman that there was some- 
JL tiling comforting and homely about his face, as though you 
were looking down at a bespectacled shoe salesman in your 
home town. That this observation has some truth, no one can 
doubt, for the nation's press and radio scarcely took any 
notice of Truman during the first agonizing hours of his Presi- 
dency. A giant had succumbed to a cerebral hemorrhage in 
Warm Springs, Georgia, and the giant's equal would not be 
seen again. Certainly there were few Americans who could 
connect the word "President" with this obscure former Senator 
from Missouri named Harry S. (for nothing at all) Tru- 
man. He seemed to be an enigma by comparison with the al- 
ready legendary hero of depression and war, the man with 
the golden voice and the impertinent cigarette, for whom more 
people had voted than for any other human being in history. 

Time described Truman, when he was nominated for Vice- 
President, as "a gray little man," "mousy-looking," "a likeable 
plodder," "a drab mediocrity." But perhaps the fiery Truman, 
whose father had had red hair and a violent temper, described 
himself best of all. At Kansas City, during the 1944 campaign, 
Senator Truman had said of himself: "A statesman is only a 
dead politician. I never want to be a statesman." 

This "drab mediocrity," this "mouse" was now President of 
the United States. He was in charge of the war that was almost 
over in Europe but had only just begun to turn against the 
Japanese in the Pacific. There was no telling how long it would 


Commits His Country to War 

take the foot soldier to capture Oriental islands inhabited by 
tens of millions of people trained since birth to die fanatically 
and willingly for their Emperor-god) The peace conference 
Franklin D. Roosevelt had so eagerly anticipated and prepared 
for in the Wilsonian tradition would now be attended by a once 
party-bossed Midwesterner who by his own admission knew 
less about the inner workings of F.D.R/s White House policy 
than he knew about Sanskrit. Roosevelt simply hadn't taken 
Truman into his awesome confidence, even though Truman 
was his Vice-President, 

Franklin D. Roosevelt was not one to present a blueprint 
of his plans. He still vividly remembered the treatment Wood- 
row Wilson had received at the hands of his fellow country- 
men after announcing in advance his rigid Fourteen Points. 
F.D.R. had, therefore, left Harry Truman little or nothing to 
go on over the long course. F.D.R. had liked the visionary, the 
idealistic, the general statement ("Four Freedoms/' "Economic 
Bill of Rights," etc.) in preference to specific blueprints. This 
the new President quickly and painfully knew to his own dis- 

On this point, President Truman was to write later that his 
first three hectic months in the White House were a nightmare 
of exhausting policymaking by day and grinding homework 
until midnight each night, for weeks on end, in an attempt 
simply to catch up on secret, supersecret, and super-supersecret 
information the President of the United States must possess as 



Commander in Chief of the armed forces and titular political 
leader of a hundred and fifty million human beings. 

President Roosevelt had died on April 12; on May 8 Presi- 
dent Truman announced the end of the war in Europe, pro- 
claiming "V-E Day." The little Missourian with the nasal voice 
and the petulant hands that chopped as he spoke had scarcely 
caught his breath or finished his homework by midnight oil 
when he was faced with a dramatic and important journey to 
a town near Berlin, Potsdam by name, for the first postwar 
peace talks with Churchill and Stalin. He knew neither man 
and neither man knew him. To make things completely awk- 
ward, Churchill's party was defeated in a general election 
back home just as the conference sat down. A new Prime 
Minister, Clement R. Attlee, now took the place of the most 
famous living man on the Western side. Attlee did not know 
Stalin, Stalin did not know Attlee, and Truman knew neither 

On the agenda were future relations with conquered coun- 
tries, vital postwar territorial claims and reparations, and the 
intricate peace treaties themselves. With Stalin, the senior 
representative, firmly in the driver's seat, little could be ac- 
complished. The best that could be done was to refer all 
peace treaty and territorial problems to a council of foreign 
ministers; to agree that there should be a public trial for all 
German and Japanese "war criminals"; to dissuade the Krem- 
lin from insisting on Clemenceau-like reparations from a pros- 
trate foe. Most important, however, was an ultimatum to Japan 
to surrender unconditionally or suffer the consequences of all- 
out war at the hands of every other nation on earth. 

Less than a fortnight later, the new President was called 
upoii to make the first of many grave and great decisions in 
the field of foreign policy. Once again, as so often happens 
in history, events were making the man but the fact remained 
that the man, however unlikely it had seemed, was apparently 
capable of understanding the requirements of greatness when 
greatness was required. 

On August 6, 1945, therefore, at the new President's specific 

Commits His Country to War 249 

order, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, killing 
or maiming forever at least 150,000 Japanese civilians. Their 
country had defied the civilized world. The Emperor-god's 
subjects would feel the consequences. These wholly unpro- 
tected civilians were now guinea pigs in the most horribly 
potent experiment in the history of warfare, an atomic ex- 
plosion equal to the force of 21,000 tons of TNT. It had been 
a terrifying, an awesome decision for a. new President to make 
less than four months after taking up the mantle of an 
undoubted, undeniable hero who could do no wrong in 

Seeing that Japan was doomed by the atomic bomb, Stalin 
immediately declared war on Japan. His troops entered Man- 
churia; by Japanese surrender on August 10 they were at the 
fringes of Korea, which was being abandoned by defeated 
occupying Japanese. The Emperor had been allowed to keep 
his throne but he would have to tell his people, as they looked 
him in the face for the first time, that he was not their god and 
must not henceforth be so regarded. 

Harry Truman pronounced August 15 "V-J Day"; two weeks 
later General MacArthur landed in Japan and began an occu- 
pation which created the greatest imaginable change in a 
nation's way of Me. Japan was altered from hidebound tradi- 
tionalism to mid-twentieth century democracy in a matter of 
months. It would never go back to feudal Orientalism, and 
its women would for the first time be recognized as human 
beings instead of chattels. This, too, was a remarkable decision 
for the green, untried President. 

A decision to create a workable world congress had been 
approached at Yalta, the last major act of Roosevelt's life. A 
conference had gathered for the first time in San Francisco 
on April 25, 1945, and two months later the final draft of the 
Charter of the United Nations had been approved. Wilson's 
dream of a world assembly had come true; the Senate of the 
United States, which had repudiated its author, now approved 
his brain child by an overwhelming vote, 89 to 2. On January 
10, 1946, the first meeting of the General Assembly of the 


United Nations met in London to tackle peace problems on a 
global basis. 

But soon a new antagonist raised its head; its name was not 
Germany nor Japan, but the Union of Soviet Socialist Repub- 
lics. Soviet Russia had been a great wartime ally. But days 
of Western wonder and awe at Soviet courage in stemming the 
Nazi tide at Stalingrad had long since faded into disgust at 
Kremlin aggression and duplicity. Churchill was the first to 
say it aloud. In Missouri in 1946 he talked openly about the 
impenetrable "iron curtain" that the postwar Soviets had 
erected between East and West. By March, 1947, Truman had, 
slowly and reluctantly, begun to adopt a very different attitude 
toward the giant world power, once America's friend in battle. 

The form of this change came gradually; it came officially 
in what history calls die Truman Doctrine. This boiled down 
to a policy of containment of Soviet Russia, already making 
threatening gestures at Western Europe, the Middle East, and 
the Orient. 

The President first called upon Congress to pledge immedi- 
ate American economic and military aid to Turkey, Greece, 
and other eastern Mediterranean friends of democracy. Tru- 
man said that henceforth every force available to the United 
States would be exerted to contain the Soviet Union in its ob- 
vious plan of world aggression. This statement that the United 
States would do all in its power to contain Soviet aggression 
was the key. Any free people resisting Soviet aggression could 
hereafter count on military and economic aid from the United 

But Truman did not limit his country to the negative role of 
Communist containment. 1 In Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 
June 5, 1947, Secretary of State General George Marshall, for- 
merly Chief of Staff of all U. S. armed forces, invited European 
countries in particular to survey their economic and military 
needs and come to Washington with specific, concrete pro- 
posals for help. 

i. Marshall Smelser and Harry W. Kirwin, Conceived in Liberty 
(Garden City, Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1955), p. 661. 

Commits His Country to War 251 

The invitation, anyone remembers, became known as the 
Marshall Plan; it is unlikely if postwar Western Europe could 
have survived the Communist threat had there been no Mar- 
shall Plan. What scarcely anyone remembers is that General 
Marshall had the wit to offer reconstruction aid to Soviet 
Russia as well, though Marshall fully realized the invitation 
would not be accepted. 

The Marshall Plan quickly combined with the Truman 
Doctrine to place a very different light on America's new world 
leadership, something she hadn't wanted and for which she was 
totally unprepared by nature or education. The vacuum cre- 
ated by the dissolution of the British Empire, for years the 
world's policeman, was at last being filled by the concrete 
proposals of a "mousy" President. The Marshall Plan alone 
would in the end cost the United States $30,000,000,000, or 
between 5 and 10 per cent of America's entire national income. 
It was cheap insurance. It worked; and it saved the West from 

By the end of the winter of 1947-1948, Soviet intentions 
were painfully apparent to all. Czechoslovakia seemed ready to 
cast its lot with the West: so the Communists quickly seized 
control and, Hitler-like, obliterated every opposition leader. 
A Wilson-created nation of American friends was sealed off 
from the West Churchill's phrase, "iron curtain," daily ex- 
pressed more terrible meaning. 

On the heels of the seizure of Czechoslovakia by the Com- 
munists, a Republican newspaperman in the United States 
Senate stood up and delivered himself of one of the most im- 
portant editorials any journalist-statesman ever wrote. The 
Vandenberg Resolution asked that the United States develop 
regional commitments with nations outside the Western 
Hemisphere in order to aid in a system of collective de- 

Senator Vandenberg pointed out, in his logical Dutch way, 
that such regional understandings and defense units were 
perfectly legal under the United Nations Charter and that the 
time seemed propitious for such a move on America's part. 
The Senate quickly voted 65 to 4 in favor of this unparalleled 


departure from traditional U. S. isolation and its perennial 
avoidance of entangling military alliances. 

The resolution had no legal status whatsoever it was merely 
an expression of the will of the Senate of the United States. 
But Arthur Vandenberg was the Republican spokesman on 
foreign policy and, since the Republicans had won both House 
and Senate in 1946, he was now senior Senator on overseas 
affairs, though the man in the White House was a Democrat. 
What this bipartisan resolution said in effect was this: the 
experience of two world wars "suggests that the best deterrent 
to aggression is the certainty that immediate and effective 
countermeasures will he taken against those who violate the 
peace/' This could only mean a United Nations police force 
and regional defense pacts such as NATO against Soviet 

The Kremlin, meanwhile, continued to trouble Harry Tru- 
man with a war of nerves over Berlin. In the summer of 1948 
the Soviets placed a total blockade on all traffic between Berlin 
and Western Germany, but the Reds did not reckon with 
Western endurance and ingenuity. Indeed, the trickery on 
Berlin solidified the Western front as nothing else had. For 
almost one full year, the Western powers spectacularly sup- 
plied the needs of more than two million Berliners entirely 
by air, It was an amazing demonstration of Allied air strength, 
technical prowess, solidity, and stubborn insistence on protect- 
ing friends of freedom and democracy. But it had an even 
more important result. 

When the West formally protested the Berlin blockade in 
the Security Council of the United Nations, the Kremlin 
promptly vetoed each proposal. Few acts could have so 
dramatized Russian contempt for justice and fair play. Until 
the later revolt in Hungary, put down by bloody force and 
duplicity, nothing succeeded as well in demonstrating to the 
uncommitted world what the Berlin airlift and its causes 
made ominously clear. The Truman Doctrine, the Marshall 
Plan, and the Vandenberg Resolution gained increasing stature 
in world diplomacy. And, in their way, these three declarations 
helped elect President Truman to a term of his own in Novem- 

Commits His Country to War 253 

ber ? 1948, despite the fact that every political forecaster had 
predicted an overwhelming victory for Thomas E. Dewey, 
the Republican candidate. 

With the confidence of the people now clearly behind him, 
the little haberdasher from Missouri plunged with sureness 
into world affairs. The first of these creative acts was NATO, 
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization formed by twelve 
nations of the Western bloc in the spring of 1949. The treaty 
obligated its signatories to rearm, to settle their individual 
disputes peaceably if possible, but by joint military or economic 
action if impossible. An armed attack on one was to be con- 
sidered an armed attack on all. The name "Soviet Russia" ap- 
peared nowhere in the treaty; it did not have to. Truman won 
Senate approval by a vote of 82 to 13 after considerable debate 
about avoiding entangling alliances. 2 

The first pronounced result of NATO was the end of the 
Berlin blockade, which had been one of the chief causes of 
the creation of NATO. The second immediate result was a 
turning of Communist interest to the Asian rather than the 
European sphere, though Europe and the Middle East were 
never completely free of Kremlin irritations. This fact was to 
lead America into the only war she ever failed to win Korea. 

By the end of 1949, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek had been 
forced to move the ragged remnants of his Nationalist army 
off the mainland of China to the island of Formosa. After five 
years of civil war, Communism was now completely triumph- 
ant in China, whose loss shocked the American people as they 
had seldom been shocked, for the gentle, anti- Japanese Chinese 
were traditional friends of America. Communist doctrine now 
ruled half of the land area of the world and one-third of its 
population. No longer could American liberals pretend to be 
friendly to Soviet aims: the aggressions and conquests had 
become too naked; and their nakedness strengthened the 
creative foreign policy of President Truman. 

The peninsula of Korea had been overrun by foreign in- 
vaders on so many occasions few historians could remember 

2. Washington's farewell address warns throughout against foreign 
entanglements, but Jefferson used the words, "entangling alliances.** 


them all. Korea was the Poland of the Orient; her latest rape 
had been by Japan. Now that the Japanese were out of power, 
Korea appealed to the United States in particular to help her 
to her freedom. At Cairo in 1943, Churchill, Roosevelt, and 
Chiang Kai-shek had announced a determination that Korea 
should in due course become free and independent. But in 
the hurry-scurry of war no formal Allied plan was made for 
Korean independence. 

The Kremlin, on the other hand, had known exactly what it 
would do. As soon as Russia had declared war on Japan, 
shortly before the end of the Japanese aggression, Russian 
troops were sent to occupy northern Korea, which was con- 
tiguous to Manchuria, now in Communist hands. Three weeks 
later, U. S. troops were landed in the south and, for military 
convenience, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel. This was 
supposed to be but a temporary arrangement and it was taken 
for granted that all foreign troops would leave when the Jap- 
anese peace treaty had been signed. The United Nations would 
then take over under a trusteeship until Korea was ready for 

But the Soviets (pietending to act for the Korean Reds) re- 
fused to leave when the appointed day came. They claimed 
that there had already been established a "People's Republic'* 
at Pyongyang and it was no longer sensible to leave the gov- 
ernment of Korea to a UN trustee. Suddenly, at the end of 
June, 1950, after excessive and fruitless talk in the UN over 
what precisely to do about the stubborn Korean "People's 
Republic," these same Communists again took the initiative. 
Their North Korean army crossed the 38th parellel and began 
a military blitz of the entire nation, in which American ( and 
a few other) forces of occupation loosely patrolled the country- 
side. The relaxed U. S. troops were overwhelmed. 

President Truman was now faced with disaster to the key- 
stone of his foreign policy, his Truman doctrine of containment 
of Soviet aggression, Already he had lost considerable face 
with the capitulation of Chiang Kai-shek and the whole of 
China to Communism. Tune even hours might be vital to 
the entire future of the democratic West and to United Nations 

Commits His Country to War 255 

prestige. But there were problems. For the Federal Constitu- 
tion clearly states that no President can declare war by himself. 
The framers of that farseeing document reserved to Congress 
alone the right to declare war. 

The Federal Constitution, in Article II, Section 2, states that 
the President "shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and 
Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several 
States, when called into the actual service of the United 
States." In other words, besides running the regular Army and 
Navy, the President runs the state military when these forces 
are involved in federalized and not local activity. And what 
is federalized activity? It must be an act involving the whole 
United States in concert. In other words, war; war involving 
the whole country against another. 

But the President himself does not possess the power to 
declare war. This power is clearly delineated in the Constitu- 
tion. Article I begins with these words: "All legislative powers 
herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United 
States, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Repre- 
sentatives." In Section 8 of the same Article, Congress and 
Congress alone exclusively retains certain general powers 
which include: 

11. To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, 
and make rules concerning captures on land and water. 

12. To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of 
money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years. 

13. To provide and maintain a Navy. 

14. To make rules for the Government and regulation of 
the land and naval forces. 

15. To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the 
laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions. 

16. To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the 
militia, and for governing such part of them as may be em- 
ployed in the service of the United States, reserving to the 
States respectively the appointment of the officers, and the 
authority of training the militia according to the discipline 
prescribed by Congress. 


It would be difficult to imagine a more specific document in 
regard to the declaration of war, raising armies, paying for 
them, and training, arming, disciplining, or regulating them. 
Those who drew up the Constitution wanted it clearly under- 
stood that not the executive (they were inevitably thinking 
about monarchy) but the people, and the people alone, should 
have the power to declare war, raise armies, and pay for the 
fighting. If the Constitutional Convention could help it, war, 
the monarchial "sport of Icings," would not be for any U. S. 
Chief Executive. 

The Constitution goes further. It strictly forbids the Presi- 
dent (the elected monarch of the people) or any individual 
state from declaring war, or raising its own armies, or play- 
ing them as on a chess board, or collecting money to pay for 
them. These powers are reserved for Congress. In Section 10 
of Article I, under the title "Further Restrictions on Powers of 
States,** the Constitution reads: 

No State shall, without the consent of Congress, lay 
any duty of tonnage, keep troops or ships of war in time of 
peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another 
State, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless 
actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not 
admit of delay. 

In other words, no individual or state can fight a private 
war, as no President can declare one without the express con- 
sent of both Houses of Congress. War is too dangerous a 
game to be left to individual whim; the whole people, through 
their elected representatives, can alone declare and prosecute 
it, though the Commander in Chief will by law be their Presi- 

When the Communist forces of North Korea crossed the 
38th parallel and threatened to engulf the whole Korean penin- 
sula on June 25, 1950, President Truman was faced with an 
untenable and unprecedented situation. The consequences of 
a blitzkrieg attack could be momentous, not only in the United 
States but throughout the world. The UN was the legitimate 
brain child of an American President; it had been phys- 

Commits His Country to War 257 

ically born on American soil at San Francisco; its permanent 
headquarters were in New York. And without quick, sure 
action on this Korean crisis the UN was doomed, and Truman 
knew it. Only bold reply would now save the United Nations 
from sharing a common grave with the League of Nations. 

When Truman had sent American troops to Europe to give 
NATO a transfusion, when he had vitiated the crisis of the 
Berlin blockade with immediate air action which, nevertheless, 
lacked Congressional consent, he had been acting as Com- 
mander in Chief as the Constitution provided. There had then 
been heated argument in Congress whether Truman was 
within his rights to send American soldiers and equipment to 
Europe in peacetime in support of Berlin and NATO; some 
isolationist newspapers called for a "Great Debate," and his 
political opponents tried to tie his hands by cutting off the 
money to pay for the troops and planes and ammunition. But, 
says David Cushman Coyle, "the struggle was more political 
than legal/' Mr. Coyle continues: 3 

According to the Constitution, the Congress has the power 
to declare war, and presumably the intention was to let 
Congress decide whether to go to war or not. But in fact any 
powerful element in the country may be in a position to get 
the United States into a war. Even the San Francisco Board 
of Education, responding to a widespread feeling in the 
State of California in 1906, ordered that Japanese children 
should be segregated from white children in the schools. 
This action set off a dangerous outburst of feeling in Japan. 
President Theodore Roosevelt sent a member of his cabinet 
to San Francisco, not that he had any power to force the 
Board to withdraw its order, but to satisfy the Japanese that 
he had tried to undo the insult. 

The President can bring on a war by taking actions that 
are within his power and that create a war situation. Wood- 
row Wilson, for instance, protested against British and Ger- 
man violations of neutral rights in terms that showed the 
gradual shift of American opinion from neutrality to an 
anti-German position. When he asked Congress for a declara- 

3. David Cushman Coyle, The United States Political System (New 
York, New American Library, 1954), p. 48. 


tion of war, it was too late to refuse. On the other hand, in 
1812 the majority o Congress hotly desired war with Eng- 
land. Some historians have thought that President Madison 
was unwillingly dragged into the War of 1812. 

If the Soviet Union had not been instantly and vigorously 
countered by Truman in Berlin and Korea, both probing raids 
might have been fatal to the United Nations and indeed to 
the free world. These were severe and premeditated testings; 
had the West been tested and found wanting, as at Munich, 
the whole world might have been on the slide leading to World 
War III. Harry Truman instinctively knew all this and he 
acted; and he alone of all the leaders in the free world was 
in a position to do so. 

The Republic of Korea was invaded by as many as 60,000 
Communist troops, most of them North Koreans and Man- 
churians spearheaded by a hundred Soviet-built tanks and 
protected by Soviet aircraft, some of which were not even 
camouflaged. The first act on the part of the United Nations 
came in the Security Council, set up to meet the emergency 
of such aggressions. The Security Council demanded with- 
drawal to the 38th parallel and immediate cessation of hostil- 
ities while more peaceful solutions could be applied. 

But the Reds did not even reply. They simply kept marching 
toward Seoul, capital of South Korea. They took it two days 
after President Truman, acting as Commander in Chief of 
U. S. forces, had on June 27 ordered General Douglas Mac- 
Arthur to come to the aid of the young South Korean Republic. 
The U. S. yth Fleet was simultaneously ordered by the Presi- 
dent to protect Formosa and likewise to keep the Chinese Na- 
tionalists there from attacking the mainland and spreading the 
Korean "police action" into general war. The phrase "police 
action" was Truman's, a conscious rationalization of his Con- 
stitutional limitations. 

Let the President himself tell what it felt like to be shaken 
awake from the false dream of peace. 4 

4. Harry S. Truman, Memoirs, Vol. II (Garden City, Doubleday and 
Company, Inc., 1956), pp. 331-34- 

Commits His Country to War 259 

On Saturday, June 24, 1950 (it was June 25 in. Korea), I 
was in Independence, Missouri, to spend the weekend with 
my family and to attend to some personal family business. 

It was a little after ten in the evening, and we were sitting 
in the library of our home on North Delaware Street when 
the telephone rang. It was the Secretary of State calling 
from his home in Maryland. 

"Mr. President," said Dean Acheson, "I have very serious 
news. The North Koreans have invaded South Korea." 

My first reaction was that I must get back to the capital, 
and I told Acheson so. He explained, however, that details 
were not yet available and that he thought I need not rush 
back until he called me again with further information. In 
the meantime, he suggested to me that we should ask the 
United Nations Security Council to hold a meeting at once 
and declare that an act of aggression had been committed 
against the Republic of Korea. I told him that I agreed and 
asked him to request immediately a special meeting of the 
Security Council, and he said he would call me to report 
again the following morning, or sooner if there was more 
information on the events in Korea. 

Acheson's next call came through around eleven-thirty 
Sunday morning, just as we were getting ready to sit down 
to an early Sunday dinner. Acheson reported that the U.N. 
Security Council had been called into emergency session. 
Additional reports had been received from Korea, and there 
was no doubt that an all-out invasion was under way there. 
The Security Council, Acheson said, would probably call 
for a cease-fire, but in view of the complete disregard the 
North Koreans and their big allies had shown for die U.N. 
in the past, we had to expect that the U.N. order would be 
ignored. Some decision would have to be made at once as 
to the degree of aid or encouragement which our govern- 
ment was willing to extend to the Republic of Korea. 

I asked Acheson to get together with the Service Secre- 
taries and the Chiefs of Staff and start working on recom- 
mendations for me when I got back. Defense Secretary Louis 
Johnson and Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff General Omar 
Bradley were on their way back from an inspection tour of 
the Far East. I informed the Secretary of State that I was 
returning to Washington at once. 


The crew of the Presidential plane Independence did a 
wonderful job. They had the plane ready to fly in less than 
an hour from the time they were alerted, and my return trip 
got under way so fast that two of my aides were left behind. 
They could not be notified in time to reach the airport. 

The plane left the Kansas City Municipal Airport at two 
o'clock, and it took just a little over three hours to make the 
trip to Washington. I had time to think aboard the plane. 
In my generation, this was not the first occasion when the 
strong had attacked the weak. I recalled some earlier in- 
stances: Manchuria, Ethiopia, Austria. I remembered how 
each time that the democracies failed to act it had encour- 
aged the aggressors to keep going ahead. Communism was 
acting in Korea just as Hitler, Mussolini, and the Japanese 
had acted ten, fifteen, and twenty years earlier. I felt cer- 
tain that if South Korea was allowed to fall, Communist 
leaders would be emboldened to override nations closer to 
our own shores. 

If the Communists were permitted to force their way 
into the Republic of Korea without opposition from the free 
world, no small nation would have the courage to resist 
threats and aggression by stronger Communist neighbors. 
If this was allowed to go unchallenged it would mean a 
third world war, just as similar incidents had brought on 
the second world war. It was also clear to me that the foun- 
dations and the principles of the United Nations were at 
stake unless this unprovoked attack on Korea could be 

What President Truman carefully emphasizes here in his 
Memoirs is the point of view taken instinctively by Secretary 
of State Acheson that this was a matter specifically for the 
United Nations Security Council; that the Soviet aggression 
against the Republic of Korea was an aggression against the 
whole United Nations organization, the entire free world, not 
simply the United States whose troops happened to be in great 
majority as Korean occupation forces. 

It is clear that the State Department and the Truman Cab- 
inet felt from the first that the President would be on firmer 
legal and political ground if he moved the target of the 

Commits His Country to War 261 

Korean aggression from the United States to the United Na- 
tions. As a common defender of Korea through the UN, the 
United States could justify many adventures, among them 
swift military and naval reaction by U. S. forces without the 
specific consent of Congress. 

On any other ground the President would be going con- 
trary to Article I, Section 8 of the Federal Constitution, giving 
Congress and Congress alone the right to declare war. With 
isolationism on the rise again, particularly in the Midwest, 
the President simply could not be placed in the position of 
appearing to commit his country to war without the consent 
of Congress. The United Nations Security Council provided 
a handy, legitimate escape hatch. 5 

Emergency meetings of civilians and military were held 
every few hours. On Sunday night in New York, the Security 
Council, by a vote of 9 to o, the USSR not voting, approved 
a resolution declaring that "a breach of the peace" had been 
committed by the North Korean action, and ordering the Reds 
to cease this action and withdraw at once. Technically, the 
UN resolution took the President off the hook, although U. S. 
troops already had been in Korean combat by that hour. 

One of these weekend emergency meetings boiled down 
to an undeniable, outstanding truth in Truman's mind, 6 

. . . the complete, almost unspoken acceptance on the part 
of everyone that whatever had to be done to meet this ag- 
gression had to be done. There was no suggestion from 
anyone (both Republican and Democratic leaders were 
present) that either the United Nations or the United States 
could back away from it. This was the test of all the talk 
of the last five years of collective security. 

No better justification for the Korean "police action" has ever 
been offered by anyone, or need be. As Lincoln had logically 
justified suspension of the writ of habeas corpus to save a 
greater freedom, Truman clearly saw in quick military reac- 
tion to naked Communist aggression "the test of all the talk." 

5. From a study of the New Jork Herald Tribunes Washington dis- 
patches from June 26 to August 10, 1950. 

6. Truman, op. cit., pp. 334-35- 


It was now or never: from here on, the United Nations would 
be simply another toothless League, a Continental Congress; 
or It would be a true force for peace and security, a Constitu- 
tion with powers of enforcement. 

By carefully placing the onus where it belonged, by insisting 
that the Soviet crime was a crime against all and not one only, 
by immediately placing U. S. troops "at the disposal of the 
United Nations," the President could legitimately sidestep the 
Constitutional restrictions mentioned in Section 8 of Article I, 
albeit no such far-reaching military action as Truman's had 
ever before been taken by an American President on his word 

But there was from the first another side to it. Perhaps this 
can best be dramatized by the perceptive Congressional 
Digest for January, 1951. Senator Tart of Ohio was, of course, 
the opposition spearhead. He was a thoroughgoing isolationist 
and he wanted to be President in 1952. He could taste the dis- 
satisfaction of a large segment of the nation with Truman's 
precipitate action in Korea (soon a losing cause) and he meant 
to make the most of it politically. 

During the "Great Debate,** Taft called Truman to account 
for the extent of the legal authority of the President as com- 
pared with the legal authority of Congress to commit troops 
abroad. Said Taft on January 5, 1951, on the floor of the 
Senate: 7 

As a matter of fact, he [Truman] had no authority what- 
ever to commit American troops to Korea without consulting 
Congress and without Congressional approval. He could not 
commit our armed forces to the support of the United Na- 
tions under the terms of the U.N. participation act which 
was passed by Congress, for that act only recognized the 
commitment of troops in the event of the negotiation of a 
special military agreement with the Security Council "which 
shall be subject to the approval of the Congress by an ap- 
propriate act of joint resolution." The Russians have pre- 
vented the conclusion of any such agreements. Congress has, 
therefore, never acted. The President simply usurped author- 

7- Congressional Digest, January, 1951, p. 54. 

Commits His Country to War 263 

ity, in violation of the laws and the Constitution, when he 
sent troops to Korea to carry out the resolution of the U.N. 
in an undeclared war. 

The Senator from Ohio admitted it might be argued that 
Congress, by appropriating money for additional Korean ac- 
tion, had ratified Truman's executive act, ex post facto, but, 
said Taft, "the war was on and we had no choice but to back 
up wholeheartedly the boys who were fighting in Korea/' 

The isolationist press had been screaming as much for 
months. The New York Daily News and Chicago Tribune led 
the attack, along foreordained lines, and a contemporary jour- 
nalist correctly reported as follows: 8 

A second view held by one Congressional bloc is that as 
a matter of simple common sense and in the name of unity 
the President would do well to obtain Congressional approval 
before engaging in any further major decisions of foreign 
policy (sending troops abroad). These decisions have had 
critical results on a scale far surpassing expectations. 

The correspondent reported severe Senate criticism of Tru- 
man's unique action. 9 

Upon what authority, then, has the President been operat- 
ing in the case of Korea? There appears to be but one an- 
swer. His authority as Commander-in-Chief of the armed 
forces of the United States. The White House has never 
specifically designated the exact authority it has in mind. 
But it is significant that no Administration spokesman has 
undertaken to refute the legal situation outlined in the 
foregoing. Queries put to the White House by "The Digest" 
have resulted in "no comment" and the only power now men- 
tioned when the question is put is the power of the President 
under the Constitution that is, the Commander-in-Chief 

But even Truman's enemies, and they were hungry, bitter 
men, out of power since 1932 and smelling victory, conceded 
that he had some precedent. The presidential power was, they 

8. Ibid., p. 35. 

9. Ibid., p. 46. 


admitted, a broad one, and there appeared to be no doubt of 
a President's authority to send American armed forces abroad 
in times of peace on certain "police actions." 

Jefferson had done so against the Barbary pirates. Polk 
had sent Taylor into Mexico. Pierce had ordered the Navy to 
bombard Nicaragua. McKinley had sent 5,000 troops to China 
during the Boxer Rebellion. Teddy Roosevelt had intervened 
in Haiti, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Wilson had ordered 
Pershing to Mexico and had fired upon Veracruz. F.D.R. had 
authorized attack on any unidentified submarine that wouldn't 
answer U. S. challenges off our coastal waters. There had been 
dozens more such acts in U. S. history. 

But each of these examples, contemporaries pointed out, 
might be distinguished from the present situation in at least 
two ways: (a) the enormous scale of operations (10,000 U. S. 
soldiers in Korea were dead in the first half year), and (b) 
the fact that this was a citizen army, whereas before, the 
President had always used professional soldiers who had volun- 
teered for military service and whatever police actions came 
their way. 

"The power to send troops abroad is Constitutionally only 
an implied one/' the Digest correspondent went on, reporting 
opposition moves "limited by precedent and judicial sanction. 
There is no honest precedent for the situation today. So unless 
the approval of Congress is sought and obtained, it is difficult 
to escape the conclusion that the Executive, at best, is operating 
with an assumed legal authority. The question now seems to 
be whether one man should be asked or allowed to make the 
decisions which the times are demanding of America." 10 

The "Great Debate" was joined, therefore, on an issue of 
far greater permanence than the outcome of the Korean 
"police action/' Constitutional argument went on for weeks 
on the floors of both House and Senate during January, 1951, 
over the extent of the legal authority, in the atomic age, of tie 
President alone and of Congress to commit U. S. troops abroad. 
The flowering opposition took the form of the Coudert-Wherry 
Resolution, named after a Congressman from New York and a 

10. Ibid. 

Commits His Country to War 265 

Senator from Nebraska, both of them staunch Republicans of 
strong nationalist leanings. 

The fertile brain of Senator Taft actually fathered the 
Coudert- Wherry Resolution. Kenneth S. Wherry was Senate 
minority leader (the Republicans had managed to lose their 
Senate majority) and even more isolationist than the gentle- 
man from Cincinnati. He was happy to comply with Taft's 
dictation which sought to put the Senate on record "against 
sending U. S. troops abroad without Congressional approval." 
The Republican supranationalist bloc saw to it that Frederic 
R. Coudert, Jr., introduced a similar resolution in the House. 
Eventually they were joined and immediately sent to commit- 

While the committees were debating the Coudert- Wherry 
Resolution, Senator William E. Jenner (Republican, Indiana) 
launched into the most violent and virulent attack yet made 
on Truman's lonely executive act in sending troops abroad. 
On January 8 Jenner bitterly accused Truman of having 
"blundered, tricked or betrayed us into a war." 11 Congress 
must issue Truman an ultimatum, said Jenner, demanding 
either a declaration of war against Red China or total with- 
drawal of our forces from Korea. The usual platitudes against 
UN ineffectiveness ( an inconsistent line in Jenner's case) closed 
the polemic. It had succeeded in opening the wound of isola- 
tionism vs. internationalism that the heroisms of World War II 
had all but healed. 

Whatever the inconsistencies of the Taft-Wherry-Jenner 
forces in the Senate, the total impact of their criticism of U. S. 
foreign policy was to deprive the administration of maneuver- 
ability and any great degree of diplomatic sanction or free- 
dom. 12 Increasing inflexibility had been apparent in right-wing 
Republicans since Dewey's nomination over Taft in 1948. The 
fateful (for Taft) last chance of 1952 loomed large. He was 
"Mr. Republican" to the country's press. He represented the 
"outs"; he also represented a most natural revulsion to more 

11. "Facts-on-File," 1951, p. 4 and passim. 

12. John W. Spanier, The Truman-MacArthur Controversy (Cam- 
bridge, Harvard University Press, 1959), p. 162. 


casualty lists. America had had enough since 1941. In this 
context, any act of President Truman was suspect. 

The initial North Korean Communist drive south had been 
blunted by a brilliant landing of U. S. Marines at Inchon in 
titie fall of 1950. The North Korean capital of Pyongyang had 
been taken October 20 and the U. S. yth Division had reached 
the Manchurian border on November 20. 

But just before the "Great Debate'* reached its peak and 
the Coudert-Wherry Resolution was presented to the Congress 
as a means of restraining the war-making powers of the Presi- 
dency, 200,000 Chinese Communist "volunteers" counterat- 
tacked the UN forces. These "volunteers" crossed the Yalu 
River and pushed back 100,000 UN troops from a score of 
nations, chiefly U. S. soldiers and armor. The Chinese Reds 
kept right on going, crossed the 38th parallel, and went seventy 
miles inside South Korea before a desperate UN defensive 
stand halted 600,000 of them at Eastertide, 1951. 

From the outset, General MacArthur had been handicapped 
by being unable to use certain modern weapons of war, among 
them atomic explosives, and having to avoid bombing Red 
ammunition depots and marshaling yards beyond the border. 
MacArthur was a professional soldier who did not relish defeat 
at the hands of swarming Orientals when his own force was 
hamstrung by the gentlemanly code of the West. 

MacArthur, who detested Truman anyway, let no oppor- 
tunity go by to reach the American people directly through 
the press and via friendly voices like Taffs, Wherry's, and the 
Chicago Tribune's. For a time there seemed to be two com- 
manders in chief in Korea, President Truman and General Mac- 
Arthur. It was an anomalous situation which could not go on 
forever; Truman ended it abruptly on April 11, 1951, by re- 
placing the great Pacific hero with General Matthew B. Ridg- 
way. Peace negotiations began two months later. 

MacArthur came home in utter triumph. Millions cheered 
him. He told a packed joint session of the Congress tearfully 
that "old soldiers never die, they just fade away," and was then 
the star of a seven-week Senate inquiry largely engineered by 
Taft, Wherry, and other anti-New Deal-Fair Deal Senators. 

Commits His Country to War 267 

In the end, MacArthur was found not to have been insub- 
ordinate, but simply to have disregarded the presidential order 
to clear policy statements through the Defense Department. 

Sporadic fighting continued for more than two years while 
peace negotiations stalled under expert guidance of the Krem- 
lin. By the election of 1952, Korea was so sore a carbuncle that 
D wight D. Eisenhower actually made political capital from a 
campaign statement that if he won the Presidency his first act 
would be to fly to Korea and "clear up the mess." 

On July 27, 1953, six months and a week after General 
Eisenhower had been sworn in to succeed Harry Truman, an 
armistice was signed and all fighting ended in the only major 
war the United States had ever entered and failed to win. 
Returned U. S. prisoners eventually told such fearful stories of 
Chinese Communist inhumanity and torture that all thoughts 
of MacArthur, of presidential campaign promises, of Senate 
resolutions, or of executive power to declare war were tempo- 
rarily overwhelmed in a sea of American revulsion. Since 
Truman had been the righteous leader against such inhuman 
barbarism, his cause did not suffer in the long run and the 
chirping against him fell away gradually as Taffs star declined 
and finally expired. 

Truman always felt justified in sending U. S. troops on this 
superpoHce action. He said on many occasions that his view of 
the Presidency was the modern view in an atomic world of 
split-second timing. He later wrote: "The President must have 
the unfettered right to be in a position to act promptly when 
an emergency arises. He must, therefore, have the broadest 
powers, limited only by the Constitution and his term of 
office." 13 

Efforts to hamper and restrict the office of the Presidency, 
Truman felt, usually fell into two categories attempts to cause 
him to lose prestige and attempts to contract the inherent 
powers of the President. In the first case, those opposed to 
quick presidential action in a specific case are often politically 
opposed to the action itself. They would be against its approval 

13. "My View of the Presidency/* Look, 22:25-31 (November 11, 


even by Congress. This takes political forms, as he pointed 
out. By holding a President's executive actions up to criticism 
and scorn, even ridicule, the opposition can cause him and 
his party to lose prestige, and perhaps the next election. As 
to hampering and restricting the office of the Presidency, many 
American legislators have honestly felt that the President of 
the United States should be more of a figurehead than a polit- 
ical leader and statesman; that encroachment by Presidents 
who take initiative and power into their own hands must at 
all times be thrust back into what is, for them, literal Consti- 
tutional limitation. 

But, as Truman pointed out, the Constitution is a flexible 
instrument. If it weren't, it would have little or no value in an 
age that has replaced the horse with motors and jets, the 
messenger with electronic communication, and gunpowder 
with nuclear holocaust. The former President wrote: 14 

It is nothing short of a miracle, when you think of it, that 
the framers of the Constitution had the genius to create an 
office, the Presidency of the United States, which can func- 
tion as responsively and as easily in this rocket and atomic 
age as it did in the age of the stagecoach, the sailing ship, 
and the powdered wig. 

Most of the powers that a President exercises today are 
authorized by the Constitution. Other powers have been 
built up by custom created by time and by events in emer- 
gencies met by our stronger Presidents. I have deep admir- 
ation for our strong Presidents who clearly understood their 
powers and acted to meet difficult situations as they arose. 
Grover Cleveland said in one case, "We are faced with a 
condition and not a theory." He met the condition. 

This is precisely what Harry Truman, the man who looked 
like a shoe salesman and a mouse to contemporary journalists, 
did when he courageously committed U. S. troops to a foreign 
field without the consent of Congress. He was faced with a 
condition, not a theory, and he met the condition vigorously. 

In doing so, President Truman irrevocably widened the con- 
cept of the power of the Presidency. From his term on, no 

14. Ibid. 

Commits His Country to War 269 

President could hesitate to quell a modem blitzkrieg on 
grounds that Congress would first have to debate and vote 
file issue. By the time such debate had been placed on the 
calendar, in the critical atomic equation half of America might 
lie in radioactive rains and our democracy with it. 





Popular Electoral 
Votes Votes 


Jear Candidate 

1789 George Washington 
No opposition 

1792 George Washington 
No opposition 

1796 John Adams 

Thomas Jefferson 

1800 Thomas Jefferson* 
Aaron Burr 

1804 Thomas Jefferson 
Charles Pinckney 

1808 James Madison 
Charles Pinckney 

1812 James Madison 
De Witt Clinton 

1816 James Monroe 

Ruf us King 
1820 James Monroe 

John Quincy Adams 
1824 John Quincy Adams** 

Andrew Jackson 

Henry Clay 

William H. Crawford 
* Elected by House of Representatives due to tie vote. 
** Elected by House of Representatives (no candidate having polled a 



Federalist Unknown 
Democrat-Republican Unknown 


Democrat-Republican Unknown 
Democrat-Republican Unknown 


Democrat-Republican Unknown 
Federalist Unknown 


Democrat-Republican Unknown 
Federalist Unknown 



Democrat-Republican Unknown 
Federalist Unknown 


Democrat-Republican Unknown 
Federalist Unknown 


Democrat-Republican Unknown 
Democrat-Republican Unknown 


National Republican 108,740 
Democrat 153>544 
Democrat-Republican 47*136 
Democrat-Republican 46,618 






Year Candidate 


Popular Electoral 
Votes Votes 

1828 Andrew Jackson 
John Quincy Adams 

National Republican 



3.832 Andrew Jackson 
Henry Clay 

Democrat 687,502 
Democrat-Republican 530,189 


1836 Martin Van Buren 
William H. Harrison 





1840 William H. Harrison 
Martin Van Buren 




1844 Jaoies K. Polk 
Henry Clay 




1848 Zachary Taylor 
Lewis Cass 





1852 Franklin Pierce 
Winfield Scott 




1856 James C. Buchanan 
John C. Fremont 




1860 Abraham Lincoln 
Stephen A. Douglas 
John C. Breckinridge 
John Bell 

Const Union 






1864 Abraham Lincoln 
George McClellan 




1868 Ulysses S. Grant 
Horatio Seymour 




1872 Ulysses S, Grant 
Horace Greeley 




1876 Rutherford B. Hayes 
Samuel J. Tilden 




1880 James A. Garfield 
Winfield S. Hancock 




1884 Grover Cleveland 
James G. Blaine 







Year Candidate 

1888 Benjamin Harrison 
Grover Cleveland 

1892 Grover Cleveland 
Benjamin Harrison 
James B. Weaver 

1896 William McKinley 
William J. Bryan 

1900 William McKinley 
William J. Bryan 

1904 Theodore Roosevelt 
Alton B. Parker 

1908 William H. Taft 
William J. Bryan 

1912 Woodrow Wilson 
Theodore Roosevelt 
William H. Taft 

1916 Woodrow Wilson 
Charles E. Hughes 

1920 Warren G. Harding 
James M. Cox 

1924 Calvin Coolidge 
John W. Davis 
Robert M. La Follette 

1928 Herbert Hoover 
Alfred E. Smith 

1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt 
Herbert Hoover 

1936 FranHin D. Roosevelt 
Alfred M. Landon 

1940 Franklin D. Roosevelt 
Wendell Wfflkie 

1944 Franklin D. Roosevelt 
Thomas E. Dewey 


Popular Electoral 
Votes Votes 



















































Jear Candidate 

Popular Electoral 
Party Votes Votes 

1948 Harry S. Truman Democrat 
Thomas E. Dewey Republican 
J. Strom Thurmond States' Rights 
Henry A. Wallace Progressive 




1952 Dwight D. Eisenhower Republican 
Adlai E. Stevenson Democrat 



1956 Dwight D. Eisenhower Republican 
Adlai E. Stevenson Democrat 



1960 John F. Kennedy*** Democrat 
Richard M. Nixon Republican 



*** Senator Harry F. Byid of Virginia received fifteen electoral votes. 


President Native of Inaugurated Vice-President 

George Washington 
John Adams 
Thomas Jefferson 
Thomas Jefferson 
James Madison 
James Monroe 
James Madison 
James Monroe 
John Quincy Adams 
Andrew Jackson 
Andrew Jackson 
Martin Van Buren 
William H. Harrison 
John Tyler 
James K. Polk 
Zachary Taylor 
Millard FiHmore 
Franklin Pierce 


Apr. 30, 1789 

John Adams 


Mar. 4, 1797 

Thomas Jefferson 


Mar. 4, 1801 

Aaron Burr 


Mar. 4, 1805 

George Clinton 


Mar. 4, 1809 

George Clinton 


Mar. 4, 1813 

Elbridge Gerry 


Mar. 4, 1817 

Daniel D. Tompkins 


Mar. 5, 1821 

Daniel D. Tompkins 


Mar. 4, 1825 

John C. Calhoun 

South Carolina 

Mar. 4, 1829 

John C. Calhoun 

South Carolina 

Mar. 4, 1833 

Martin Van Buren 

New York 

Mar. 4, 1837 

Richard M. Johnson 


Mar. 4, 1841 

John Tyler 


Apr. 6, 1841 

North Carolina 

Mar. 4, 1845 

George M. Dallas 


Mar. 5, 1849 

Millard Fillmore 

New York 

July 10, 1850 

New Hampshire 

Mar. 4, 1853 

William R. King 



James Buchanan 
Abraham Lincoln 
Abraham Lincoln 
Andrew Johnson 
Ulysses S. Grant 
Ulysses S. Grant 
Rutherford B, Et 
James A. Garfield 
Chester A. Arthur 
Grover Cleveland 
Benjamin Harrison 
Grover Cleveland 
William McKinley 
William McKinley 
Theodore Roose\ 
Theodore Roose\ 
William H. Taft 
Woodrow Wilson 
Woodrow Wilson 
Warren G. Hard 
Calvin Coolidge 
Calvin Coolidge 
Herbert Hoover 


Native of 

Inaugurated Vice-President 

an Pennsylvania 

Mar. 4, 1857 John C. Breckinridge 

oln Kentucky 

Mar. 4, 1861 Hannibal Hamlin 

oln Kentucky 

Mar. 4, 1865 Andrew Johnson 

on North Carolina 

Apr. 15, 1865 

mt Ohio 

Mar. 4, 1869 Schuyler Colfax 

mt Ohio 

Mar. 4, 1873 Henry Wilson 

Hayes Ohio 

Mar. 3, 1877 William A. Wheeler 

ield Ohio 

Mar. 4, 1881 Chester A. Arthur 

thur Vermont 

Sept 20, 1881 

and New Jersey 

Mar. 4, 1885 Thomas A. Hendricks 

rison Ohio 

Mar. 4, 1889 Levi P. Morton 

land New Jersey 

Mar. 4, 1893 Adlai E. Stevenson 

tnley Ohio 

Mar. 4, 1897 Garret A. Hobart 

onley Ohio 

Mar. 4, 1901 Theodore Roosevelt 

>sevelt New York 

Sept. 14, 1901 

>sevelt New York 

Mar. 4, 1905 Charles W. Fairbanks 

aft Ohio 

Mar. 4, 1909 James S. Sherman 

(son Virginia 

Mar. 4, 1913 Thomas R. Marshall 

[son Virginia 

Mar. 5, 1917 Thomas R. Marshall 

arding Ohio 

Mar. 4, 1921 Calvin Coolidge 

ge Vermont 

Aug. 3, 1923 

ge Vermont 

Mar. 4, 1925 Charles G. Dawes 

f er Iowa 

Mar. 4, 1929 Charles Curtis 

loosevelt New York 

Mar. 4, 1933 John N. Garner 

loosevelt New York 

Jan. 20, 1937 John N. Garner 

loosevelt New York 

Jan. 20, 1941 Henry A. Wallace 

loosevelt New York 

Jan. 20, 1945 Harry S. Truman 


President Native of Inaugurated Vice-President 

Harry S. Truman Missouri Apr. 12, 1945 

Harry S, Truman Missouri Jan. 20, 1949 Alben W. Barkley 

Dwight D. Eisenhower Texas Jan. 20, 1953 Richard M. Nixon 

Dwight D. Eisenhower Texas Jan. 21, 1957 Richard M, Nixon 

John F. Kennedy Massachusetts Jan. 20, 1961 Lyndon B. Johnson 


Abell, Chester, 121 

Abolitionists, 95 

Acheson, Dean, 259, 260 

Adams, Franklin P., 75 

Adams, John, 26, 35, 66, 185 

Adams, John. Quincy, 36, 58, 61- 
69 pass., 72, 73, 74 

Adamson Act, 190 

Age of Jackson, Schlesinger, 68 

Agricultural Adjustment Admin- 
istration, 240 

American Datty Advertiser, 
quoted, 70 

American Insurance Company 
et al. v. David Canter, 49 

Ames, Fisher, 46 

Amiens, Peace of, 39 

Arnold, Thomas D., 60 

Arthur, Chester Abell, 121, 122 

Arthur, Chester Alan, 98-123, 
126, 127, 128 

Arthur, William, 121, 122 

Articles of Confederation, 18, 22, 

Atomic bomb, 249 

Attlee, Clement R., 248 

Autobiography, White, 163 

Bank holiday, declared by 
F.D.R., 229, 230, 231 

Barb6-Marbois, F., 42, 43 
Bassett, John Spencer, quoted, 


Beecher, Henry Ward, 85, 130 
Benton, Thomas Hart, quoted, 


Berlin airlift, 252, 257 

Beveridge, Albert ]., quoted, 47- 

Billings, Nathaniel, 27 

Blaine, Harriet Stanwood, 128 

Blaine, James G. 99, 100, 104, 
107, 119, 120, 124, 129; in 
campaign v. Cleveland, 124- 
32 pass., 134, 139; as Secre- 
tary of State, 106, 114, 126, 

Blaine, Mrs. James G., 112, 116, 

Bliss, Tasker H., 207 

Blum, John Morton, quoted, 204 
and n., 207 and n. 

Bonus Army, 224-25, 235 

Borah, William E., 227 

Boston Advertiser., 135 

Bowers, Claude, 224 

Brady, Thomas W., 107 

Bryan, William Jennings, 154, 
162, 174, 183, 184, 186, 192, 

Buchanan, James, 136, 139, 166 
Bull Run, Battle of, 81, 83 
Burnside, Ambrose E., 82, 85 

Cabot, George, 46 

Calhoun, John C., 61 

Gannon, Joseph G., 118, 177, 


Canter, David, 49 
Carleton, Guy, 16, 17 
Carlyle, Thomas, 27 
Chancellorsville, Battle of, 82, 

83, 84, 86, 93, 94 
Chase, Salmon P., 94; quoted, 


Chiang Kai-shek, 253, 254 
Chicago Daily News, 116 
Chicago Tribune, 191, 198, 263, 


China, 253 
Churchill, Winston, 248, 250, 

254; quoted, 243 
Cincinnati, Society of the, 26 
Cincinnati Gazette, 59 
Civil Service, Federal, 73, 78 
Civil Service Act, 114, 115, 116 
Civilian Conservation Corps, 235 
Clark, Champ, 183, 184, 186 
Clay, Henry, 58, 61, 62, 63, 64, 

67, 68, 74, 1*7 
Clayton Anti-Trust Act, 190 
Clemenceau, Georges, 199, 201, 

202, 205, 209, 211 
Cleveland, Grover, 116, 124-49 
Cleveland, Oscar, 132 
Cobb, Frank L, 197 
Colfax, Schuyler, 106 
Cottiers, 236 
Congress, Continental, 15, 16, 

18-22 pass., 28 
Congressional Digest, quoted, 

262-63, 264 
Conkling, Boscoe, 99, 100, 101, 

103, 104, 106, 107, 108, 109, 

114, 117, 119, 120, 129 


Conscription (1863), 94-95 

Constitution, Federal, 36, 43, 44, 
46, 49, 88, 91, 140, 141, 190, 
268; and declaration of war, 
255-56, 257-58, 261; and ha- 
beas corpus, 87, 90 

Constitutional Convention, 27, 
29, 142, 256 

Continental Army, 14-15, 17-18, 

Continental Congress, 15, 16, 

18-22 pass., 28 
Copperheads, 84 
Cornwallis, Lord, 14 
Cortelyou, George B., 169, 171, 

Corwin, Edward S., 140; quoted, 


Coudert, Frederic R., Jr., 265 
Coudert- Wherry Resolution, 

264-65, 266 
Cox, James, 220 
Coyle, David Cushman, quoted, 

Creel, George, 207 
Crook, H. W., 112 
Custom House, New York, 108- 

09, 111, 114 
Czechoslovakia, Communist sei- 

zure of, 251 
Czolgosz, Leon, 16311. 

Declaration of Independence, 

26, 87 

Depew, Chauncey, 104 
Depression, Great, 37, 217, 221, 

223, 224, 225, 236 
Dewey, Thomas E., 127, 253 
Dixon, George Washington, 68 
Dorsey, Stephen W., 107 
Douglas, Helen Gahagan, 117 
Douglas, Lewis W., 232, 233 

Eaton, Peggy O'Neale, 69 


Eisenhower, Dwight D., 140, 

14571., 163, 267 
Electoral college, 64 
Eliot, Charles W., 130 

Farley, James A., 
Farm Credit Act, 238, 241 
Farm Loan Act, 190 
Federal Reserve Act, 190 
Federal Trade Commission, 190 
Federalists, 35, 36, 46, 7* 
Fish, Hamilton, 235 
Fisher, Warren, Jr., 130 
Florida, purchase of, 40, 42, 50 
Flynn, Edward J., quoted, 242 
Foreign Relations Committee, 

181, 200, 206 
Forty-two Years in the White 

House, Ike Hoover, quoted, 

134*1., I35n. 
Fourteen Points, Wilson's, 193- 

203 pass.., 208, 210 
France, Louisiana Territory 

ceded to, 38, 40 
Fredericksburg, Battle of, 82, 

Freeman, Douglas Southall, 22, 


Freidel, Frank B., 222n., 223 
Frelinghuysen, Frederick, 126 
Frick, H. C., 173 

Gait, Edith Boiling, 189 and n. 
Garfield, Harry, 197 
Garfield, James A., 100, 101, 
103-08 pass., 111, 113, 128, 

129, 137 

Garner, John N., 221 
George III, 15, 16, 18, 23 
Gettysburg, Battle of, 93, 94, 95 
Gibbons v. Ogden, 34, 37 
Glass-Steagall Banking Act, 238, 

Gould, Jay, 104 


Grand Army of the Republic, 

139, M3, 144> 145 
Grant, Ulysses S., 52, 78, 99, 
100, 104, 106, 107, 114, 127, 

129, 137 

Greeley, Horace, 96, 137 
Greene, Nathanael, 26 
Griswold, Roger, 46 
Guiteau, 128 

Habeas corpus, Lincoln's sus- 
pension of, 80, 81, 83, 86, 87, 
88, 90, 91-93, 94, 96 

Haiti, 41, 42 

Half-Breeds, Blaine's, 99, 100, 
103, 117, 119, 129 

Halpin, Maria, 132, 133 

Hamilton, Alexander, 133, 165 

Hammond, Charles, 61 ; quoted, 
59, 60 

Hancock, Winfield S., 101, 104, 

105, 137 
Hanna, Marcus A., 153, 154, 

155, 160, 162, 163, 164, 166, 


Harding, Florence, 128 
Harding, Warren G., 220 
Harper's Weekly, 131, 138 
Harriman, E. H., 172 
Harrison, Benjamin, 101, 129, 

149, 152, 154 

Harrison, William Henry, 152 
Harvey, George B. M., 183 
Hay, John, 161, 163 
Hayes, Rutherford B., 98 and 

n., 99, 100, 137, 146 
Hays, Jane, quoted, 58 
Hays, Will, 203 
Hendricks, Thomas A., 134 
Hepburn Act, 177 
Herndon, Ellen, 118 
Herndon, William Lewis, 118 
Hinman, A. P., 120 and n., 121, 

Hiroshima, 249 

Hockett, Homer Carey, 66, 67; 

quoted, 67 

Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 168 
Home Owners Loan Act, 238, 


Hooker, Joe, 81-86 pass., 93, 94 
Hoover, Herbert, 208, 210, 220, 

222, 228, 232; in campaign 

v. Roosevelt, 221, 223-27; 

quoted, 196 and n., 197 
Hoover, Ike, i8on.; quoted, 

13471., i35n., 18971. 
House, Edward M., 184, 196, 

197, 199, 200, 201, 207, 210, 

Houston, Sam, Jackson's letter 

to, 59 
Howe, Louis McHenry, 233, 

Hughes, Charles Evans, 173, 

Hyde, James Hazen, 173 

Interstate Commerce Commis- 

sion, 177 
Isolationism, 191, 198, 200, 208, 

213, 262, 265 

Jackson, Andrew, 47, 52-78, 114, 

124, 165 
Jackson, Rachel, 58-63 pass., 71; 

see also Robards, Rachel 
Jackson, Thomas J. (Stonewall), 

83, 86 

James, Marquis, 63 
Japan, 249 
Jay, John, 26; Washington's let- 

ter to, 29 
Jefferson, Thomas, 27, 29, 32- 

51, 66, 165 

Jenner, William E., 265 
Johnson, Andrew, 137 
Johnson, Hiram, 191 
Jones, John P., 111 
Jouitt, Jack, 55 


Kelly, John, 131 

Kennebec Journal, 129, 130 

Kemey, James, 186 

King George III, 15, 16, 18, 23 

Koch, Adrienne, 39 

Korea, 253-54, 256, 257, 258 

Korean War, 37, 92, 258-67 

Krock, Arthur, 236, 237 

Lafayette, Marquis de, 38 
La Follette, Robert M., Jr., 230 
La Follette Seamen's Act, 190 
Landon, Alfred M., 137 
Lansing, Robert, 192, 197, 207 
Lawrence, David, 213 and n. 
League of Nations, 181, 197, 

199, 208, 209, 212, 214 
Lee, Robert E., 82, 83, 93, 94 
Leech, Margaret, quoted, 88 

and n. 
Levin, Peter, 159; quoted, 102- 

03, 159-60, 166-67 
Life of John Marshall, Beveridge, 

quoted, 47-48 

Lincoln, Abraham, 80-96, 137 
Lincoln, Mary Todd, 128 
Lincoln, Robert Todd, 108, 115 
Lincoyer, 58 
Lippmann, Walter, quoted, 227, 

*34> 243 
Livingston, Robert R., 16, 42, 

43> 47; Jefferson's letter to, 

38, 39, 40 
Lloyd George, David, 199, 200, 

201, 205, 209, 211 
Lodge, Henry Cabot, 181, 201, 

206, 209, 212; quoted, 27 
Logan, John Alexander, 127 and 


Long, Huey, 231 
Louisiana Purchase, 32, 35, 44- 

50 pass. 
Louisiana Territory, 34, 38, 42, 

43, 51 
Lusitania, sinking of, 191-92 


McAdoo, William G., 221 
MacArthur, Douglas, 225, 249, 

258, 266, 267 
McClellan, George B., 82, 83, 

84, 137 

McCormick, Anne O'Hare, 236 
McCormick, Vance, 197 
McCulloch v. Maryland, 34, 37 
McKinley, William, 153, 154, 

155, 160, 161, 162, 163 
Madison, James, 36, 66 
Magna Charta, 80 
Maine, sinking of, 154 
Manning, Danl, 131 
Marbury v. Madison, 34, 37 
Marcy, William Learned, 52, 64 
Marshall, George, 250, 251 
Marshall, John, 33-38 pass., 44- 

51 pass., 65, 70 
Marshall Plan, 251, 252 
Mills, Ogden, 229 
Moley, Raymond, 229, 233; 

quoted, 237-38, 239 
Monroe, James, 36, 40, 42, 43, 

Morgan, J. P., 164, 167, 168, 

172, 173 

Morris, Gouverneur, 26 
Morton, Levi P., 101, 104 
Mugwumps, 139 
Mulligan, James, 130 
Mulligan letters, 124, 128, 129, 

130, 131, 138 
Murphy, John, 88 

Napoleon Bonaparte, 38, 39, 40, 

42, 43, 44, 166 
Nation, 131 
National Industrial Recovery 

Act, 241 

National Journal, 60 
Nevins, Allan, 146; quoted, 146- 

New Deal, 185, 222, 228, 230, 

236, 239 


New Freedom, 185 

New York Custom House, 108- 

09, 111, 114 

New York Daily News, 263 
New York Herald Tribune, 231 
New York Times, 142, 224, 234, 


New York Tribune, 85, 86, 96 
New York World, 171, 197; 

quoted, 174 
New Yorker, 246 
Nicola, Lewis, 23, 24, 26; 
quoted, 20, 21, 22; Washing- 
ton's letter to, 25 
Nineteenth Amendment, 190 
Nixon, Richard M., 117, 163 
North Atlantic Treaty Organiza- 
tion, 252, 253, 257 
Northern Securities Company, 
164, 168, 174 

Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson, 
Herbert Hoover, quoted, 196 
and n., 197 

Orlando, Vittorio E., 205, 209 

Pact of London, 209, 210 
Paine, Thomas, 27, 29 
Parker, Alton B., 171, 172 
"Pauper's bill/' 144 
Pendleton Civil Service Act, 114, 

H5> n6 

Pickering, Timothy, 46 
Pinckney Treaty, 40, 45 
Platt, Thomas C., 104, 127, 154- 

57, 160, 161, 162, 163 
Pocket veto, 142 
Porter, Andrew, 88 
President Office and Powers, 

Corwin, 140 
Pringle, Henry F., 158, 170, 

172, 176 
Progressive Party, formed by 

Theodore Roosevelt, 184, 185 

Prohibition Amendment, 95, 190, 

2,2,1; repeal of, 239 
Pulitzer, Joseph, 171, 172 

Quigg, L. E., 155, 156 

Railroad Coordination Act, 238, 


Ridgway, Matthew B., 266 
Robards, Lewis, 54, 55, 56 
Robards, Rachel, 54, 55, 56, 57; 

see also Jackson, Rachel 
Rockefeller, John EX, 151, 169 
Rodney, George, 17 
Rogers, Will, 234 
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 218, 219, 


Roosevelt, Franklin Delano, 37, 
65, 77, 124, 141, 155, 177, 
185, 193, 247, 248, 254; in 
campaign v. Hoover, 221, 
222-27; first hundred days in 
administration of, 216-19, 
227-44; Tammany defied by, 
220, 221; vetoes by, 145-46 

Roosevelt, Theodore, 128, 132, 
142, 143, 150-78, 184, 185, 

187, 200, 204 

Root, Elihu, 163, 174, 206; 

quoted, 113 

Rosecrans, William S., 105 
Rough Riders, 155, 158 
RoyaQ, Anne, 71; quoted, 70 

San Ildefonso, Treaty of, 38 

Sandburg, Carl, 77, 85, 94 

Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr., 68, 
75, 145 and n., 236; quoted, 
76-77, 78, 230 and n. 

Schurz, Carl, 130, 131, 143*1. 

Scott, Winfield, 87 

Securities and Exchange Com- 
mission, 241 

Senate Foreign Relations Com- 
mittee, 181, 200, 206 


Seven Ages of Washington, Wis- 

ter, 24 

Seventeenth Amendment, 190 
Seward, William H., 88, 89, 94 
Seymour, Horatio, 95, 137 
Sherman, John, 100, 101, 104, 

120, 152 
Sherman Anti-Trust Act, 152, 

153, 167, 168, 174, 176 
Silk-stockings, 157 
Smith, Alfred E., 220, 221 
Smithsonian Institution, 72 
Society of the Cincinnati, 26 
Soviet Russia, 250-54 pass. 
Spain, 38, 39, 40, 45, 50 
Spanish-American War, 155 
Speyer, James, 173 
Spoils system, 52, 62, 65, 76, 78, 


Stalin, Joseph, 248, 249 
Stalwarts, ConkMng's, 99, 100, 

101, 108, 111, 117, 119, 127, 

128, 129 
Standard Oil Company, 151-52, 

169, 172, 176 

Stanton, Edwin M., 89, 105 
"Star route" frauds, 106-07 
Starling, Edmund W., 204*1., 

20571., 2i3n. 
States* rights, 37 
Stevens, Thaddeus, 106 
Stillman, James, 173 
Story, Joseph, 65, 68, 71 
Stotesbury, Edward T., 173 
Stuart, J.E.B., 155 
Supreme Court, 36, 49, 50, 140, 

167, 168 

Taft, William Howard, 163, 176, 
178, 184, 201, 206, 262, 263, 
265, 266, 267 

Talleyrand, 39, 49 

Tammany Hall, 103, 131, 132, 
143, 219, 220, 221 

Taney, Roger Brooke, 65, 87 


Tariff, Arthur's policy on, 115 
Tennessee Valley Authority, 240 
Thompson, Hubert O., 142, 143 
Tiffany, Louis Comfort, ill; 

quoted, 112 

Tilden, Samuel J., 98, 105, 137 
Time, quoted, 246 
Toussaint L'Ouverture, Francois 

Dominique, 41 
Truman, Harry S., 37, 92, no, 


Truman Doctrine, 250, 251, 252 
Trust, horizontal, 150; vertical, 

Trust-busting, by Theodore 

Roosevelt, 167-68, 173-76, 


Tucker, Raymond, quoted, 236 
Tumulty, Joe, 186 
Twain, Mark, 116 
Twenty Years of Congress, 

Elaine, 126 

Union League Club, 173, 174 
United Nations, 214, 249, 250, 
251, 254, 256-62 pass. 

Vallandigham, Clement, 84, 86 
Valley Forge, 14, 15 
Van Buren, Martin, 69, 76, 118 
Van Wyck, Augustus, 157 
Vandenberg, Arthur, 251, 252 
Vandenberg Resolution, 251, 252 
V-E Day, 248 

Versailles Treaty, 208, 211-12, 


Veto, presidential, 140, 141, 142 
Vicksburg, 94 
V-J Day, 249 

Walker, Jimmy, 220 
Wallace, Henry, 240 
Walworth, Arthur, quoted, 199- 


War of 1812, 47, 194 
Washington, George, 14-30, 165 
Webster, Daniel, quoted, 67, 69 
Weems, M. L., 23 and n., 24 
West, Andrew F., 183 
Wherry, Kenneth S., 265, 266 
White, Henry, 207 
White, William Allen, 163, 186, 

223; quoted, 185-86, 189 
Whitney, William C., 134 
Wilson, Ellen Axson, 189 
Wilson, Woodrow, 163, 180-214, 


Wister, Owen, 24 
Wood, Leonard, 155 
Woodin, William H., 229, 231 
Woodward, W. E., quoted, 90 
Workingman's Party, 66 
World War I, U. S. participation 

in, 192-93* 201-02 
World War H, 246-49 

XYZ Affair, 35 

Yalta, 249 

Yorktown, British surrender at, 


Richard L. Tobin began working for the New York Herald Tribune 
the day after he graduated from the University of Michigan and 
during the next twenty-four years covered, among other things, 
every aspect of local, state, and national politics. His special assign- 
ments during that period included the famous Lindbergh case, the 
meteoric rise of Fiorello La Guardia, wartime foreign correspond- 
ence from Europe, and news of the White House, which the author 
visited regularly during the administrations of Presidents Roosevelt, 
Truman, and Eisenhower. Mr. Tobin was also Director of Radio 
and Television News for the Herald Tribune and Public Affairs 
Director in charge of its annual forum. 

For thirteen years, beginning in 1940, Mr. Tobin was on the 
faculty of the Pulitzer School of Journalism, Columbia University. 
During the same period he was also a news broadcaster and com- 
mentator, both in the United States and in Europe. 

In 1958, Mr. Tobin was appointed Executive Editor of the 
Famous Writers School, a post which he left in 1960 to become 
Communications Editor of the Saturday Review, 

In both 1956 and 1960, Mr. Tobin participated actively in na- 
tional politics as an advisor and publicity manager for Dwight D. 
Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon in their campaigns for the 
American Presidency. 

Mr. Tobin's former books include Invasion Journal (1944), 
Golden Opinions (1948), and The Center of the World (1951). 
He has contributed to numerous national magazines and lectured 
extensively around the country on current events. 






( continued from jronr jiapj 
opposing almost overwhelming political 
pressures of the ambitious and the venal, 
the second by dignifying the power of 
the Presidential veto, and the third by 
using Presidential initiative to control 
commercial combines and trusts harmful 
to the public interest. 

Mr. Tobin describes Woodrow Wilson's 
inspired battle to bring the United States 
into the family of nations a battle which 
was temporarily lost to political combina- 
tions opposing Wilson, but eventually 
won in America's entry into the United 
Nations, He also presents a memorable 
picture of F. D. R.'s first hundred days 
of Presidential power. And he describes 
the role of Harry Truman, who, working 
through the United Nations, personally 
committed his country to war in Korea. 

From Mr. Tobin's dramatic presenta- 
tion of our evolving Presidency, we get 
a clearer idea of the responsibility and 
the challenge of the greatest political 
office in the free world today. From his 
faithful picture of outstanding men who 
held the office, we become more fully 
aware of the glory, as well as the promise, 
of our national traditions. 

The World Publishing Company